‘Increase cooperation between all levels of government’: legislation seeks to update 50-year-old rules on US federal-state cooperation

By on 01/04/2022 | Updated on 01/04/2022
The United States Capitol Building in Washington
A new bill seeks to reduce duplication and costs, improve service delivery, and strengthen accountability and oversight of federal programmes, services, and benefits delivered by all levels of US governments.

Rules governing elements of the relationship between US federal and state and local governments could be modernised under legislation progressing in the Senate.

Lawmakers introduced a bill last week with a proposal to revise and upgrade existing laws enshrined in the 1960s, which would improve coordination between levels of government on the provision of services such as employment benefits, surveys, training and technical aid.

The bill’s key aim to “reduce unnecessary duplication and costs, improve service delivery, and strengthen accountability and oversight of federal programmes, services, and benefits primarily delivered by state, local, territorial, or tribal governments”.

If passed, the legislation could “help ensure tax dollars are not spent on unnecessary resources to execute core government responsibilities” by resetting action rules around intergovernmental cooperation from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and Office of Intergovernmental Affairs.

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“This common sense, bipartisan bill will increase cooperation between all levels of government to improve the ability of state and local governments to provide critical services more efficiently and save taxpayer dollars as they help carry out many federal programmes,” said Gary Peters, a US senator and one of the lawmakers who introduced the bill.

Once the bill becomes law, the OMB would have 150 days to publish a new strategic plan, and 90 days to issue fresh guidance. Such guidance would update the existing rules from the OMB, which were introduced in August 1969, which provided the detailed guidance to implement the Intergovernmental Cooperation Act of 1968.

The commission was formed in 1959 to “strengthen the American federal system and improve the ability of federal, state and local governments to work together cooperatively, efficiently and effectively”.

Another requirement is a yearly report summarising services provided to governments by agencies, as well as cost savings and recommendations on further service delivery improvements. All reports would be submitted to the senate’s Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and the House Oversight and Reform Committee.

Read more: US lawmakers champion public sector collaboration panel

Reviving intergovernmental cooperation

The new legislation is the latest in a number of attempts to modernise the relationships between US federal, state and local governments. In 2019, a new commission designed to nurture cooperation between the US state, federal and local governments was proposed in a bill put forward by bipartisan lawmakers. Representatives Gerry Connolly, a Virginia Democrat, and Rob Bishop, a Utah Republican, said the Restore the Partnership Act would “reconstitute and reform” the US Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations, an independent government agency which was disbanded in 1996.

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About Jack Aldane

Jack is a British journalist, cartoonist and podcaster. He graduated from Heythrop College London in 2009 with a BA in philosophy, before living and working in China for three years as a freelance reporter. After training in financial journalism at City University from 2013 to 2014, Jack worked at Bloomberg and Thomson Reuters before moving into editing magazines on global trade and development finance. Shortly after editing opinion writing for UnHerd, he joined the independent think tank ResPublica, where he led a media campaign to change the health and safety requirements around asbestos in UK public buildings. As host and producer of The Booking Club podcast – a conversation series featuring prominent authors and commentators at their favourite restaurants – Jack continues to engage today’s most distinguished thinkers on the biggest problems pertaining to ideology and power in the 21st century. He joined Global Government Forum as its Senior Staff Writer and Community Co-ordinator in 2021.

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