Interstate cooperation in New England
Whitney, John Collamore
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Inevitably, government is reaching more and more into fields of industry, human relations, and social welfare. The trend toward centralization is all too obvious to many of our citizens. It seems that the states were adequately equipped to deal with the nation's economic and social problems of the nineteenth century, but they have not proved themselves adequate to deal with many of those same problems of the twentieth century. Many people seem to forget that to a large degree this growth of the Federal government has been due to the inability of the states to handle their problems to and to cooperate among themselves. So it is evident that we must pursue the remedy of interstate cooperation in order to revive our "drooping" federalism and to preserve the sovereign rights of the States. The writer's basic assumption is that "federalism" is still alive and that the sovereignty of the States is no mere fiction. Furthermore , he assumes that interstate cooperation and uniform state action can revive and save "federalism." The present work represents an attempt to survey the scope and to analyze the significance and possibilities of interstate relations as pertaining to New England with particular emphasis on Massachusetts. It is an attempt to show briefly the nature and accomplishments of such cooperative relations and reciprocal agreements as have come to exist at the present time. The thesis and problem then, is to discover how interstate cooperation and uniform policies can be achieved in New England, to find out what has and is being done in this field, and then, to evaluate the good and bad points. The methods used to gather this material were the historical research and the interview methods for the most part, although some statistical studies were included. The greater part of the material was obtained from the Massachusetts State House Law Library, the Kirsten Better Business Library, and the Massachusetts Commission on Interstate Cooperation. The need for legislative uniformity and cooperation in New England was found to be very great. First, the lack of uniform laws pertaining to insurance, marriage and divorce, the issuance of corporate charters, traffic control, public health, aviation, as well as many other subjects, as found to be all too obvious. Second, there are matters that are of common concern to all the New England states, such as river pollution control, flood control, forest fire prevention, etc If the states can solve these problems by themselves, it seems as if the Federal government would be less likely to step in, consequently, the move toward centralization might be checked. It was found that use of the interstate compact as an instrument to facilitate joint action between two or more states in New England has been used very sparingly. One of the most important agencies of interstate cooperation now at work in New England is the interstate cooperation commission. Each of the six states has a commission, Massachusetts being the first to establish one in 1937. Their functions are to advance cooperation between the states by formulating proposals for and by facilitating the adoption of interstate compacts, the enactment of uniform or reciprocal legislation, and the adoption of uniform or reciprocal administrative rules and regulations. The achievements of the commissions are impressive. New England states now have general uniform motor laws, flood control compacts are in the process of being enacted, a forest fire compact has just recently been passed, and many other subjects have been solved through the efforts of the commissions. Several administrative organizations were found to be contributing to better cooperation between the states. The New England Governors' Conference is one of the foremost in this group. At these conferences many recommendations have been made which have later led to more uniform administrative policies. The now defunct New England Regional Planning Commission and the Joint Railroad Committee were organizations that could have been very helpful at the present time. A very important unofficial organization working to provide the region's agencies of business and government with the stimulus and the means for working together in a cooperative manner on common problems is the New England Council. A brief summary of its main activities reveals that the council maintains contact with the governors and frequently takes up matters with them. At least once a year it brings the governors together in an annual conference to discuss methods of perfecting and coordinating the economic growth of the entire area. The council maintains executive offices with a staff who carry on work in such fields as agriculture, industry, recreational development, publicity, research, etc. The Council's efforts are largely stimulative. The Council has promoted uniformity in agricultural administration, in motor vehicle regulation, and in many other fields. Through its publicity activities it has tried to acquaint New England with the Council's work in order to promote cooperation. The Council's Committees on aviation, atomic energy, community development, industry, etc., have made important contributions to the coordinated growth of New England. Despite the Council's good work, it does have a rather glaring weakness since it seems to voice the opinion of big business in general, and does not adequately represent the small businessman or the consumer. Of all the organizations working for interstate cooperation and uniform laws in New England, the interstate cooperation commissions appear to be doing the most effective work. The New England Council and the Governors' Conferences are also doing fine work, but too often it is with very little action. Thus, it seems most imperative that the New England states continue to develop, aid, and strengthen these commissions by giving them more funds, technical assistance, etc. Finally, the writer would like to propose his own program for achieving uniform laws and cooperation between the New England states. First, it wou1d seem both possible and desirable for the six states to form a regional assembly of state administrative officers. These would include executive officers from various leading industries in New England, from the state government offices, and also some of the heads of the colleges. From these men with their wide experience, it should be possible to form a representative assembly which can study the existing situation in the region, evaluate methods, and devise ways and means of furthering interstate cooperation in New England. It would have a permanent secretariat such as the United Nations has, to handle various specialized tasks. Second, the effort must be made to stimulate interest and enthusiasm in the idea of cooperation and uniformity among those who have the power to act, namely, public officials, both legislators and administrators. Third, an educational program in the interests of uniformity and cooperative state action in New England must be unaugurated. The states all have funds which are used for propaganda activities and these could be used in a campaign to enlighten the young people, the white collar worker, and the ordinary laborer, of the seriousness of the move toward centralization. Fourth, and to the writer the most important method that the states should rely on to achieve cooperation, is the use of the interstate compact. The compact offers a way of constructive cooperation. It is binding, it provides for joint action, it need not be merely a legislative declaration; it may extend to any form of activity, executive, administrative, judicial, as well as legislative; and an interstate compact may be permanent, it cannot be brushed lightly aside. The compact could be utilized in many fields in New England, such as labor, penal problems, flood control, irrigation projects, conservation, etc. In whatever fields compacts are used, the complexities arising between subjects and between regions require a systematic approach. There must be a plan to prevent the hurried negotiation of emergency compacts made without reference to a coordinated program, since this would result in very unfortunate perceived legislative action. The regional assembly suggested by the writer offers one instrument for the coordination of compact programs as do the interstate commissions on cooperation. The accomplishments to date have been limited because we have not sensed fully the significance of the problem, and because we have not organized ourselves effectively to solve it. The policy of drift has failed. It is time to take stock of our needs, gather our resources, and proceed toward a more satisfactory solution. If we do not do this, we have only ourselves to blame if as many people fear, the states are ultimately reduced to mere administrative units in a vast centralized machine.
Thesis (M.A.)--Boston University
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