Column: State research groups have varied influence

In a recent Governing Magazine article (“What Happened to Federalism?”) the author laments that the 1996 closing of the U.S. Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations was a mortal blow to the non-partisan influence and interaction of state and local officials with their federal counterparts on a plethora of policy issues.

Today, ideological and partisan Washington-based think tanks such as the conservative Heritage Foundation and the more moderate-to-liberal Brookings Institution are the bastion of policy data. The question, though, is whether this arrangement is good for the development and dissemination of empirically sound and valid information to political and policy makers.

Should state and local governments become more politically and administratively entrepreneurial in policy advocacy? Or can the federal government recreate something akin to the commission, thus reviving a largely non-ideological research organization?

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