By Alana Burman

As the Internet and increased interconnectivity have expanded, state government officials have come to rely upon interstate compacts and agreements to navigate how their decisions affect neighboring areas.  The main difference between compacts and agreements is the level of formality.  Both serve to provide a unified goal in coordination and planning across combinations of territories, governments, and populations.  Three states that have repeatedly leveraged their proximity to each other for “better government” have been New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut.

Public Policy (Cannabis)

In October 2019, governors for Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania met in New York City to discuss unifying policy regarding cannabis.  All four states experience substantial daily interstate travel of workers, tourists, and general populations.   Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania sought an agreement to work collaboratively to harmonize their cannabis policies, including age-of-legality, law enforcement focus, and even pricing.

In the future, interstate compacts and agreements could help with cannabis distribution, particularly as states like Illinois experience shortages while others, such as Oregon, have surpluses.  Establishing compacts, with a supportive federal government, could allow states to correct intrastate markets based on demand and secure interstate supplies, similar to what we see with interstate utility-energy supply.

Public Safety (Interoperability)

New York and Connecticut have also entered into interoperability agreements for public safety, inviting New Jersey to join certain initiatives.  Public-private partnerships with technology companies and other organizations with a focus on communication and public safety have facilitated some of this cooperation.  Because interoperable safety responses depend on shared resources, interstate agreements can achieve sharing and enhance communication for emergency responses.

Public Health (COVID-19)

In response to the mid-March 2020 spread of COVID-19, the governors of Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York held a joint press call announcing joint closures, bans, and restrictions.  In doing so, the three administrations aimed to curtail the spread of the novel coronavirus not just in their respective states but the region at large.  One governor noted that if one state closed businesses that the other left open, residents would migrate to patronize the area that was open, continuing to allow the virus to spread.

Interstate compacts and agreements are not limited to these states and topics, either. Currently, there are interstate compacts being formed that allow for teacher licensing, emergency licensure of EMS personnel, election reform, and curbing business tax incentives. It’s likely that more states and territories will continue to opt into these wide-ranging collaborative agreements as governments and businesses look to increase their footprint as they positively impact outcomes.

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