This spring, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) announced the creation of a bipartisan Task Force on Intergovernmental Affairs with a focus on the intergovernmental relationship between the federal government and states, tribes, and local authorities in managing and administering public policy goals and objectives. This important relationship is the principle behind the federalist form of government established under the U.S. Constitution.
Speaker Ryan’s statement outlines the goal and objective of the 13-member Task Force, chaired by Representative Rob Bishop (R-UT): “study[ing] ways to restore the proper balance of power between the federal government and states, tribal and local governments, and eliminate unnecessary regulatory burdens facing communities across the nation.”
The House initiative highlights the important relationship between each level of government in developing and implementing policies to address many domestic issues, including economic development, affordable housing, tax reform, transportation and infrastructure, and environmental management. The coordination of public policies and resources by government entities will ideally lead to efficiencies that will benefit commercial real estate by eliminating unnecessary and conflicting rules and regulations, spurring economic development.
The coordination of policies between each level of government would lead to a more predictable regulatory process that avoids fragmented compliance requirements. A conflicting regulatory environment places an owner or developer in the difficult position, for example, of violating a federal regulation in order to comply with a local one. Consider “green” building codes. There may be different federal, state and local regulations to determine whether a project is “green.” It will cost a commercial real estate owner or developer time and money to run through the legislative or regulatory process. That can delay and even deter a commercial project from moving forward.
The Task Force’s mission includes looking at areas of innovation and creativity in problem-solving by states and local governments and other opportunities to partner with and empower non-federal government entities in addressing domestic issues. Many state and local governments would welcome the opportunity for more flexibility and fewer federal mandates, particularly as the Trump Administration and Congress debate budgetary proposals to reduce federal funding for programs, such as the Community Development Block Grant Program with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, that support state and local initiatives.
Recognizing the importance of this, the Task Force includes an Advisory Council consisting of state and local organizations that is often referred to as the Big 7. These seven organizations include:
- National Association of Counties
- National Governors Association
- Council of State Governments
- National Conference of State Legislatures
- National League of Cities
- U.S. Conference of Mayors
- International City/County Management Association
These state and local organizations are well known to NAIOP, and we have engaged them and/or their members on public policies of importance to commercial real estate.
Time will tell whether the bipartisan members of the Task Force will come together, in working with these state and local groups, to deliver meaningful reforms that improve the intergovernmental relationship between the federal, state, tribal and local governments. While states and localities welcome the opportunity to have a substantive dialogue on federalism with the U.S. House of Representatives, they will also be cautiously aware of efforts that result in unfunded federal mandates being passed on to many fiscally strapped state and local governments. If this is the ultimate result of the Task Force’s efforts, state and local governments may call on commercial real estate and the private sector to play a larger role through property taxes and other measures in order to make up for the added responsibility.
Toby Burke is the Senior Director of State and Local Affairs for NAIOP.