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Connolly, Bishop Introduce Restore the Partnership Act

Today, Reps. Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Chairman of the Subcommittee on Government Operations, and Rob Bishop (R-UT) introduced H.R. 3883, the Restore the Partnership Act, bipartisan legislation to reconstitute and reform the U.S. Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (ACIR), which has remained dormant since 1996. The purpose of new commission, the Commission on Intergovernmental Relations of the United States, would be to facilitate cooperation and accountability among federal, state, tribal, and local governments.

Today, the Subcommittee on Government Operations will hold a hearing entitled, “Restoring the Partnership: The Future of Federalism” which will examine the Connolly-Bishop legislation. The legislation is a product of the work of the Speaker’s Task Force on Intergovernmental Affairs, which was chaired by Rep. Bishop and which held a hearing on the potential reestablishment of the ACIR in the 115th Congress. Rep. Connolly chaired that hearing for the Task Force at the request of Rep. Bishop.

“As a former member and Chairman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, I know firsthand how crucial it is for our local governments to have the cooperation and support of their federal, state, and tribal partners,” said Connolly. “America’s federated system of government relies on collaboration across all levels of government to ensure the reliable administration of public services and the protection of the public welfare. Only with earned trust and open channels of communication can all governments in the United States truly work together to reduce overlap and actually do the business of improving people’s lives.”

“The solutions to our nation's problems are found in the creativity of state, local, and tribal governments, all of whom are closer to the people than Washington bureaucrats,” said Bishop. “Working with these leaders will produce bipartisan solutions and greater coordination to improve the lives of the American people. The proposed reforms to this federalism commission will serve to enhance the efficiencies of a collaborative government. I am pleased to partner with Rep. Connolly on this important work.”

The Restore the Partnership Act seeks to reconstitute an evolved Commission on Intergovernmental Relations of the United States, based on the now defunct U.S. Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations. The bill includes several key reforms to the original commission, including:

1. The addition of town and tribal representatives to the Commission as well as expanded membership for state legislatures and counties to reach parity with state executive representation.
2. New responsibilities that include examining Supreme Court decisions and their impact on the intergovernmental relationship.
3. A requirement that Congress hold hearings to examine the Commission’s annual report within 90 days of the report’s submission to Congress.
4. New authorities that ensure the Commission receives written responses from agencies on the recommendations it provides to them.

These new provisions generate a new level of accountability to Commission, placing it on par with the way in which federal agencies currently engage the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

Before his election to Congress, Rep. Connolly served on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, including 5 years as Chairman. He also served as the Chairman of the Board of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, President of the Virginia Association of Counties, and, in the 115th Congress, as a member of the Speaker’s Task Force on Intergovernmental Affairs. Rep. Bishop served 16 years in Utah’s state legislature, including as Majority Leader and the Speaker of the House. He also co-founded the Western States Coalition and served as the Chairman of the Speaker’s Task force on Intergovernmental Affairs.

Full text of the legislation can be found here.

The Restore the Partnership Act is endorsed by the National Governors Association, the National Association of Counties, the National League of Cities, the International City/County Management Association, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the Council of State Governments, and the United States Conference of Mayors.
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