Federal Assistance System Should Be Changed To Permit Greater Involvement by State Legislatures

GGD-81-3: Published: Dec 15, 1980. Publicly Released: Dec 15, 1980.

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State legislative involvement in the federal grant process is discouraged by the restrictive nature of the system itself, and by specific provisions in federal grant programs which assign legislative responsibilities to the state executive branch. An assessment was made of the role of state legislatures in reviewing and controlling Federal grant funds received by the states.

Many state legislatures have been discouraged from becoming involved in the allocation or oversight of federal grant funds because of their perception that they have no legitimate role. The absence of state legislative involvement adversely affects federal interests, since neutrality may be impaired when explicit functions are assigned to only one branch of state government without adequate recognition of the other branch. In addition, federal constraints on legislative responsibility work to diminish the most basic form of accountability in state government, the legislative oversight of executive actions. Prospects for full state support and implementation of grant programs also suffer when legislatures are not involved in the programs. Despite federal discouragement, some legislatures have involved themselves in various federal grant programs. Contrary to expectations, legislative involvement has produced generally beneficial results, without causing delays or the loss of available grant funds. Enhancing the accountability of federal programs to traditional state representative institutions enhances the long-range interests of federal grant programs. Where state legislative involvement has been achieved, it has demonstrated that it clearly supports legitimate federal interests. GAO believes that the primary responsibility for initiating legislative involvement must come from within the states themselves.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status:

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: Congress should amend the Intergovernmental Cooperation Act of 1968 to ensure that grant provisions assigning various administrative responsibilities to state executive officials not be construed as limiting or negating the exercise of powers by state legislatures as determined by state law to appropriate federal funds, to designate agencies to implement grant programs, and to review state plans and applications for federal assistance.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status:

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) should issue a new directive to federal agencies on providing assistance to state legislatures. OMB should actively monitor agency implementation of this directive. The Director of OMB should also revise Circular A-95 to specifically allow for legislative involvement and thereby help dispell doubts as to the permissibility of such involvement.

    Agency Affected: Executive Office of the President: Office of Management and Budget


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