National Governors Association
National Conference of State Legislatures
The Council of State Governments
National Association of Counties
National League of Cities
The U.S. Conference of Mayors
International City/County Management Association

 

May 17, 2012

The Honorable John Boehner
Speaker of the House
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515

The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Minority Leader
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515

The Honorable Harry Reid
Majority Leader
U.S. Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

The Honorable Mitch McConnell
Minority Leader
U.S. Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510

Dear Speaker Boehner, Senator Reid, Senator McConnell, and Representative Pelosi:

As leaders of the nation’s state and local government associations, we urge Congress to oppose legislation that would inhibit communication and collaboration between federal, state and local governments. Specifically, we are concerned with overly-broad provisions in H.R. 2146, the DATA Act and S. 1789, the 21st Century Postal Service Act that would severely restrict the participation of federal agency personnel in state and local conferences, meetings and programs.

Our organizations share Congress’ commitment to reducing wasteful spending and promoting transparency.  However, the legislation being considered would limit the type of intergovernmental dialogue necessary for finding solutions to shared policy problems that are vital for conserving scarce resources and meeting public needs.  Although designed to enhance efficiency and transparency, by restricting interaction among government officials at forums organized by state and local associations, these bills would severely curtail intergovernmental cooperation, limit the efficiency of government programs, and reduce the level of information available to the public.

We are specifically concerned with Section 5712(c)(4) of the legislation, which states:

LIMITATION ON THE ANNUAL NUMBER OF CONFERENCES AN AGENCY MAY SUPPORT- No agency may expend funds on more than a single conference sponsored or organized by an organization during any fiscal year, unless the agency is the primary sponsor and organizer of the conference.

This section could be interpreted to mean that if an agency employee attends an event sponsored by an association of state and local leaders, no employee of that agency could attend any other events held by that organization for the remainder of the fiscal year.  State and local associations organize hundreds of events each year, including working meetings, training courses, conferences, and best practice forums, which play

a vital role in promoting innovation and cost effective program delivery in criminal justice, homeland security, education, and a host of other issue areas.  These forums, the majority of which are open to the public and widely covered by the media, also offer an important platform for citizens to see first-hand how all three levels of government work together to design, deliver, and oversee  important programs and services. 

State and local governments are constantly engaged in the implementation and oversight of numerous state-federal programs and the federal laws and regulations on which they are based.  Our members also closely monitor and participate in federal efforts to manage the nation’s long-term debt while avoiding cost shifts or the creation of unfunded mandates.  Collaboration, cooperation, information sharing and transparency between governments are critical if we are to address our nation’s most pressing issues.  Therefore, we call on Congress to oppose provisions like those in H.R. 2146 and S. 1789 that would undermine the intergovernmental relationship between federal, state and local governments.

Sincerely,

Dan Crippen, Executive Director
National Governors Association

 

David Adkins, Executive Director
The Council of State Governments

 

Donald J. Borut, Executive Director
National League of Cities

 

Robert J. O’Neill, Executive Director
International City/County Management Association

William T. Pound, Executive Director
National Conference of State Legislatures

 

Larry E. Naake, Executive Director
National Association of Counties
 

Tom Cochran, CEO and Executive Director
United States Conference of Mayors