An interstate compact is a documented agreement between various individual states within the United States. These agreements can be instituted by two or more governments. The goal of an interstate compact is to manage or supplement uniform factors or features that the states have in common. Basically they are put into place in areas which it is in the best interest of the parties to control or promote certain aspects of the economy or infrastructure.
While many states create agreements with each other, there is a federal mandate that limits the cooperation between the governments. According to Article One, Section 10 of the US Constitution, “no state shall enter into an agreement or compact with another state.” This is presumed by the judiciary to be an effort to centralize power with the federal government. It also helped stave off the American Civil War for decades after the establishment of the country. To circumvent this mandate, all interstate compacts must receive approval from the US Congress.
The concept of an interstate compact is often criticized by different parties due to its creation of new government agencies. When an interstate compact is created, it needs to be funded and administered by governmental bodies in order to ensure that it is operating properly. Those who don't support a larger government often speak out against these provisions. Despite this fact, much of the constituency benefits from these provisions.
The process of establishing an interstate compact first begins with an identification of common interests or problems between two or more states. Generally, representatives from the governments work together to determine the best way to coordinate efforts and find a way to fund the necessary agencies that are to be established. The agreement is drafted and ratified by the various legislative and executive bodies within the states themselves. Finally, the agreement is sent to Congress, often via the representatives from the states. Usually, very little debate is held regarding an interstate compact and it passes by vote on the floors of the House of Representatives and the Senate.
Examples of interstate compacts can be found all over the country. There are 22 different agreements in operation in the US. Major agreements include the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission between Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas, which controls the fishing industry in the region and the Connecticut River Valley Flood Control Commission between New Hampshire, Vermont, Connecticut and Massachusetts, which manages flood conditions along the river.