Interstate Compacts

About Interstate Compacts

Interstate compacts are agreements between states to implement solutions to common problems or areas of interest.  Compacts, once ratified by Congress, become federal law and supersede all current federal and state laws.  Sometimes these laws can be conflicting and confusing, the compact resets the playing field and allows the states to enact solutions that are best for them through their legislatures.

Compacts can be entered into by as few as 2 states and as many as 50.  They are normally enacted into law through the legislature in most states and signed by the governor.  Compacts involving areas that fall under federal authority must have the consent of Congress.  Once a compact is created other states can join by enacting legislation that adopts the language of the compact.  States joining the compact after Congress gives its consent can invoke their authority under the compact immediately.

There are over two hundred interstate compacts currently in existence throughout the US, and 90 of them have gotten Congressional approval.

Unlike nullification, which is a concept that the founders and others talked about, compacts have Constitutional authority, derived from Article 1, section 10 of the Constitution, and the use of compacts predates the Constitution.

The use of compacts are a way for states to assert their state sovereignty over the issues and areas not enumerated for the federal government, but that the federal government continually makes incursions into.  Interstate Compacts are also a good way for member states to address issues of mutual concern, realizing the efficiency and economy of scale, while pre-empting federal incursion into areas reserved for the states.  If there is a hole, the federal government will try to fill it!

The problem with incursions by the federal government is that in a country like ours where the states are so diverse in needs and thinking, a one size fits all prescription simply does not work.   Our founding fathers, knowing all too well, envisioned this problem and established the Constitution with limited (or as Barack Obama would say “negative”) powers.  All other powers were reserved for the states or the people.  Our Constitution makes it pretty clear “who decides”.  It has been the courts, and both the federal and state legislatures, that have clouded the issue.

The driving principle behind compacts is “who decides”.  The same was true for the American Revolution.  It wasn’t so much about the “taxation” as it was, the “without representation” part.  In other words “who decides”.

By banding together via the use of compacts the individual states will amplify their voice and influence.  There is power in numbers.  You know, “United we stand, divided we fall”.  This was the reason that the original 13 colonies banded together to counter the British Monarchy, ultimately resulting in the Declaration of Independence and the colonies gaining their independence and sovereignty from the crown.

States that are not members of the compacts continue under existing federal regulations.

Amendments can be made to compacts but they must be approved by all of the member states of the compact and the Congress to become effective.

Areas Covered By Existing Interstate Compacts


-Criminal background checks

-Public Transportation, toll roads, high speed rail,

-Traffic Safety

-Drivers Licenses and violation reporting


-Education personnel standards

-Water sanitation

-Sex offenders and supervision of

-Adoptions & Medical Assistance

-Mental Health

-Water safety and environmental issues


 Examples of Typical Compacts

 WMATA- Wash metro system between VA, MD and DC

 Potomac Valley Compact — Creates the Interstate Commission on the Potomac River Basin to preserve water quality and to conserve water and related land resources of the Potomac River basin. Involved States include: Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia, as well as the District of Columbia. It should not be confused with the Potomac River Basin Compact, which failed to become operational after 10 years of vigorous promotion. In 1970, Congress approved amendments to the original compact that expanded the authority of the compact.

– Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children; adopts.

– Interstate Public-Private Transportation Partnership Compact

 -Interstate Compact for Juveniles

-North Carolina Interstate Toll Road Compact

Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC)

Interstate Compact for Adult Offender Supervision

Driver License Compact

VirginiaNorth Carolina Interstate High Speed Rail Compact

Other Reasons to join in Interstate Compacts

-State legislatures maintain control and enact a  solution that is best for the individual state, with input from its citizens.

-States may back out of a compact at any time by passing a law to that     effect, however existing federal law kicks back in immediately.

-With the federal government and its costs out of the picture, there is a better chance for the states to realize efficiencies and thereby reduce the financial burden on its citizens.

-As our society becomes more socially, economically and culturally integrated and the numbers of issues impacting our citizens grows, so will the desire of the federal government to intervene and inject its solutions.  The health care and other compacts are a good way to pre-empt federal involvement in policy areas that they don’t belong in.

-The use of Compacts may be our best way forward, to restore the federalist system of federal non-intervention in areas of responsibility reserved for the states, by banding together on interstate solutions to problems, thereby pre-empting federal involvement and reinforcing our sovereignty in the future.

Useful Compacts for the Future

 -IC for health insurance pool, to offer low cost and or catastrophic insurance to at risk individuals.

-IC to Allow Insurance companies to compete across state lines, thereby increasing competition while lowering overhead and resulting in savings for the customer.

-IC to institute certain tort reforms.  By restricting run away court awards and punitive damages in mal-practice and personal injury suits, the cost of insurance for doctors, practitioners, hospitals, clinics, medical device manufacturers, drug companies, and any others in healthcare industry would be reducued greatly.  These insurance costs have a compounding effect on healthcare costs.  Similar savings would be realized for homeowners, auto, personal and business liability and other forms of insurance.  All of these insurance costs are passed on to you the consumer.



















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