US state governments working together?

**Arising out of the thread on states acting together to organise a common healthcare reform plan, it occurs to me to ask to what extent state governors and governments explore and develop policy and administrative ideas together? Is there a standing organisation to foster this, do the federal government departments have any role in this, or do they all rely on their own ideas or whatever independent thinktanks, specialist interest groups and the like can persuade them into?

American Legislative Exchange Council does this.

I won’t go into details in GQ, but take the “nonpartisan” with a grain (or more) of salt…

(It you do want the details, search for “State Legislatures and ALEC: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver”)

The most famous example of this in recent time is the Common Core standards. Contrary to popular belief, the federal government had nothing to do with them: They were just the result of most of the states getting together and agreeing that it was a good idea.

IIRC, that one started with an association of governors, not of legislators.

Thanks for these, that’s exactly the kind of thing I imagined might be done, but the electoral politics tends to get all the news priority in the kind of reporting we hear about.

Not that the situations are anywhere comparable, but as well as party organisations for elected representatives in local government, we have formal associations of local government bodies up and down the country that pay for specialist research and put forward ideas on different topics, as well as organisations for local civil servants in specialist areas (like Directors of Social Services, Education, Traffic Planning, Electoral Services and all that).

This is not quite the same thing, but there is also a National Association of Counties, that represents all the nation’s 3,069 individual counties. The only reason I know about it is because one of my local commissioners has been the president until very recently, and she sometimes makes the local news about it.

State attorneys general will sometimes work together on a multi-state investigation of a large problem, but always on an ad hoc basis. There is no formal body or mechanism for doing so.

I suppose someone should mention the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials

I don’t think it’s necessary to be coy about it – Wikipedia plainly describes it as “a nonprofit organization of conservative state legislators” – its original name was “Conservative Caucus of State Legislators” and, per the Wiki link, “the majority of ALEC’s legislative members belong to the Republican Party”.

Since the OP was inspired by a health care related discussion, it might be worth noting that health care has the distinguishing attributes of being very expensive as either a governmental or family budget item, and of already having very substantial US federal government involvement. So I would posit that while the OP question is interesting in isolation, in the health care context it’s probably moot as you would almost certainly need both federal regulation and federal funding to implement something as economically far-reaching and significant as UHC even if it was at the state level.

One obvious collaboration of states is the Mississipi river …

There are two bodies formed by the states… one from the upper states,and one formed by the lower states.
The article does lament the lack of EPA and other fed’s distant involvement … rather then actually attending the meetings of these bodies, the feds just hand out incentives.

There is also NASAA, which focuses on securities law issues. They let the Canadians play too!

I think just about every state issue has some kind of national (and/or regional) issue-based association of states to provide a structure for states to share and cooperate. I think it’s typically Commissioners/Secretaries/whatever the state calls the heads of Departments/Agencies or non-political staff a rung down the ladder that participate. And there are informal ways of cooperating and sharing, too: staff from different states having a beer and swapping stories at a national meeting (not put on by the state-cooperation organization), or a federal staffer saying “You know, state X has the same issue you guys do here in state Y; maybe you should call Ms. Z in their office”

How much any state agency wants to share with and learn from other states varies dramatically by state and agency. Individual agency cultures can vary dramatically.