Progress Report - Chapter 3


Brandeis' Vision: State and Local Experimentation

Washington often interferes unnecessarily with former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis' vision that each state serve as a "laboratory" within which to experiment with new ideas. [21] The more it interferes, the more it blocks innovations that could help governments at all levels solve the pressing problems they face.

Soon after the release of From Red Tape to Results , the President issued two executive orders to ease the burdens and encourage experimentation:

On September 30, 1993, he issued Executive Order 12866, encouraging agencies to avoid the use of unfunded mandates on state and local governments and opening the regulatory review process to public scrutiny. Consequently, OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs has held Regulatory Review Planning meetings with state and local representatives to find better ways through which they can participate in the regulatory process.

On October 26, he issued Executive Order 12875, requiring federal agencies to try to avoid creating mandates for state and local action that are not accompanied by grants to pay for them. He also asked agencies to review their waiver application process to ensure that they can rule within 120 days on state and local requests to waive federal legal or regulatory requirements.

The President and Congress also have worked on legislation to increase state and local flexibility in administering federally funded programs. In their top-down effort, they are trying to consolidate a slew of separate federal programs so they can provide funds for states and localities in broader categories. In their bottom-up effort, they are trying to increase state and local authority to spend federal funds in the most effective way.

One major focus of attention is education. This year's Goals 2000: Educate America Act empowered the U.S. Education secretary to waive provisions of the act, and it also gave states some limited authority to waive provisions on their own. In addition, the reauthorization of federal elementary and secondary education programs, which has progressed to a House-Senate conference committee, provides flexibility in the use of federal resources for state and local school systems.

Also in a conference committee is the Local Empowerment and Flexibility Act of 1994, which the Senate passed in March as part of the National Competitiveness Act. It would create a pilot program to give up to 60 communities the flexibility to coordinate programs and funds more efficiently across such federal assistance categories as economic development, employment training, health, housing, nutrition, rural development, transportation, public safety, and other social services.

In his fiscal 1995 budget, which he unveiled in February, the President proposed consolidating programs in several departments: in Labor, benefit and training programs; in HUD, home ownership and homelessness programs; and in Health and Human Services, child care programs. HHS has consolidated four programs into one to make it easier for states to provide education, vocational rehabilitation, health, employment and training, child welfare, and other social services to families. HHS has also promised to review state requests for Medicaid and AFDC waivers in less than 120 days.

Recognizing the federal atmosphere that encourages state and local flexibility, states are devising their own plans and receiving a sympathetic ear. In January, President Clinton endorsed West Virginia's and Indiana's plans to encourage, without changes in federal laws, community integration of 199 federal programs for children and families. The states plan to work with Washington through memoranda of understanding and other administrative procedures.


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