America's Compact, Part Two: How Compacts Work


Most Americans, upon first learning about Compact for America’s Balanced Budget initiative, feel a sense of relief and hopefulness. When faced with the certainty, safety, and speed that America’s Compact for a Balanced Budget provides as a strong solution to our countries looming debt problems, conscientious Americans are curious about how interstate compacts work.

In Part One of our America’s Compact blog series, we learned what an interstate compact is, and how prevalent they’re today. In part two of this blog series, we will examine how interstate compacts are used today, and some of the advantages for using them.

What types of Interstate Compacts Exist?

While there are many uses for interstate compacts, they can generally be divided into three different categories:

  • Border Compacts: Examples include the Virginia-Tennessee Boundary Agreement of 1803, Arizona-California Boundary Compact of 1963, the Missouri-Nebraska Compact of 1990, and the Virginia-West Virginia Boundary Compact of 1998.

  • Advisory Compacts: Advisory compacts are agreements between two or more states that create study commissions. State commissions are created in order to examine a common problem among states and to report their findings to their respective states. State commissions that operate under the authority of an advisory compact between states are not permanent administrative agencies, nor do they hold regulatory authority.

  • Regulatory Compacts: Regulatory compacts are the largest category of interstate compacts, and are employed to address a wide-range of interstate issues. Typically, regulatory compacts assist in regional planning and development, crime control, agriculture, emergency preparedness, resource management, and education. Unlike advisory compacts, regulatory compacts do create administrative agencies with regulatory authority among states. In the areas where regulatory compacts involve one of Congresses enumerated powers, regulatory compacts require Congressional approval.

Some of the Advantages of Interstate Compacts

With many of the complex issues we face in the 21st century, interstate compacts have reemerged to address complex issues that are problematic beyond state lines. Interstate compacts are a powerful resource for our states to use to address our most pressing suprastate problems. Whether it’s employing interstate compacts to address our nations looming debt problems, or enhancing communication efforts among our states to face the threat of terrorism, interstate compacts are great devices for adjusting interstate relations, and governing our nation.

According to the Council of State Governments, “Unlike federal actions that impose unilateral, rigid mandates, compacts afford states the opportunity to develop dynamic, self-regulatory systems over which the party states can maintain control through a coordinated legislative and administrative process. Compacts enable the states to develop adaptive structures that can evolve to meet new and increased challenges that naturally arise over time.”

Therefore, harnessing an interstate compact (like America’s Compact for a balanced budget) is advantageous, because it empowers our states to act on our nation’s growing debt issues at a time when federal inaction is customary. Not only does Article V of our Constitution give our states authority to propose Constitutional amendments, but the use of an interstate compact allows us to do so with greater certainty, safety, and speed than other "legacy" approaches within the current Article V movement.

Related Reading...

Read America's Compact, Part One: What's a Compact Here

Read Article V 2.0, Part One: Certainty Here

Read Article V 2.0, Part Two: Safety Here

Read Article V 2.0, Part Three: Speed Here

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