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Barrier-free design -- Government policy -- United States, People with disabilities -- Employment -- Government policy -- United States, People with disabilities -- Employment -- Law and legislation -- United States


The findings of this study indicate that the existence of national mandates does not necessarily eliminate the need for citizen groups to be attentive to state capitols and city halls. Ironically, one factor in the rise of regulatory federalism has been the desire of interest groups to concentrate their resources on one government, namely, the national government, rather than 50 different state governments. Yet, success in the national arena is often only partial, and sometimes only largely symbolic. It is the implementation of national rules that takes one back to states and localities.

The findings of this study also suggest that problems of policy implementation that are often attributed to intergovernmental obstacles may be as much or more due to intragovernmental obstacles. The rise of regulatory federalism has been fueled by a belief that it is better to have one government rather than 50 governments perform functions. One government can presumably formulate rational and coherent policy, and then coordinate the efficient implementation of that policy, thus avoiding the fragmentation and diversity often said to be characteristic of intergovernmental policy implementation. Yet, the problem with this theory is that intergovernmental fragmentation, which may not be the real issue in every case, may simply be replaced by intragovernmental fragmentation. As more responsibilities are assigned to one government, intragovernmental fragmentation is likely to be exacerbated. What needs to be explored, then, is how intergovernmental policymaking may be, under many circumstances, a more effective way to achieve essential national objectives than purely national policymaking in which compliance requirements are more prominent than alliance incentives.

Another issue to be addressed is whether the federal government is as equally willing and able to impose sanctions on its own agencies for noncompliance as it is to impose sanctions on state and local governments. Federal agencies and courts may levy fines, withhold grant funds, or compel state and local governments to alter funding priorities or raise new revenue in order to enforce compliance with national mandates. Would the Congress or the President be prepared, let us say, to withhold 10 percent of the Defense Department's funding in order to compel compliance if the department were not in full compliance with certain mandates applicable to federal agencies? Is the U.S. Supreme Court prepared to compel the Congress and the President to raise taxes to ensure federal compliance with mandates? Does the Congress itself ensure that its own rules and procedures conform to legislated mandates?

Finally, the findings of this study suggest that there is a continuing need to build consensus in the intergovernmental system in order to implement policy nationwide. It is not enough to enact mandates more or less unilaterally and to expect compliance to flow swiftly in their wake. Another factor in the rise of regulatory federalism has been the desire of pressure groups to circumvent or override the many veto points said to exist in the federal system. The price of this strategy, however, can be high, including policy ambiguity and the lack of a sufficiently strong consensus to follow through on vigorous implementation. Policy mandates need to be owned, or at least not disowned, by those who must implement them. Thus, bringing federalism back into the national policy-making process can improve the implementation of policy in what must necessarily be an intergovernmental process.

The findings and recommendations were approved by the Commission at its meeting on March 10, 1989.


The principal author of this report is Stephen L. Percy. At the time of publication, Stephen L. Percy was affiliated with University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee.

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