Presidential Executive Order 12612
Source: 52 FR 41685
October 26, 1987
By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and laws of the United States
of America, and in order to restore the division of governmental responsibilities between the
government and the States that was intended by the Framers of the Constitution and to ensure
the principles of federalism established by the Framers guide the Executive departments and
in the formulation and implementation of policies, it is hereby ordered as follows:
Section 1. Definitions. For purposes of this Order:
(a) "Policies that have federalism implications" refers to regulations, legislative comments or
proposed legislation, and other policy statements or actions that have substantial direct effects on
States, on the relationship between the national government and the States, or on the distribution
power and responsibilities among the various levels of government.
(b) "State" or "States" refer to the States of the United States or America, individually or
collectively, and, where relevant, to State governments, including units of local government and
political subdivisions established by the States.
Sec. 2. Fundamental Federalism Principles. In formulating and implementing policies that
have federalism implications, Executive departments and agencies shall be guided by the following
fundamental federalism prinicples:
(a) Federalism is rooted in the knowledge that our political liberties are best assured by
limiting the size and scope of the national government
(b) The people of the States created the national government when they delegated to it those
enumerated governmental powers relating to matters beyond the competence of the individual
All other sovereign powers, save those expressly prohibited the States by the Constitution, are
reserved to the States or to the people.
(c) The constitutional relationship among sovereign governments, State and national, is
formalized in and protected by the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution.
(d) The people of the States are free, subject only to restrictions in the Constitution itself or
in constitutionally authorized Acts of Congress, to define the moral, political, and legal character
of their lives.
(e) In most areas of governmental concern, the States uniquely possess the constitutional
authority, the resources, and the competence to discern the sentiments of the people and to
govern accordingly. In Thomas Jefferson's words, the States are "the most competent
administrations for our domestic concerns and the surest bulwarks against antirepublican
(f) The nature of our constitutional system encourages a healthy diversity in the public policies
adopted by the people of the several States according to their own conditions, needs, and desires.
In the search for enlightened public policy, individual States and communities are free to
experiment with a variety of approaches to public issues.
(g) Acts of the national government--whether legislative, executive, or judicial in nature--that
exceed the enumerated powers of that government under the Constitution violate the principle of
federalism established by the Framers.
(h) Policies of the national government should recognize the responsibility of--and should
encourage opportunities for--individuals, families, neighborhoods, local governments, and private
associations to achieve their personal, social, and economic objectives through cooperative
(i) In the absence of clear constitutional or statutory authority, the presumption of sovereignty
should rest with the individual States. Uncertainties regarding the legitimate authority of the
national government should be resolved against regulation at the national level.
Sec. 3. Federalism Policymaking Criteria. In addition to the fundamental federalism principles
set forth in section 2, Executive departments and agencies shall adhere, to the extent permitted by
law, to the following criteria when formulating and implementing policies that have federalism
(a) There should be strict adherence to constitutional principles. Executive departments and
agencies should closely examine the constitutional and statutory authority supporting any Federal
action that would limit the policymaking discretion of the States, and should carefully assess the
necessity for such action. To the extent practicable, the States should be consulted before any
such action is implemented. Executive Order No. 12372 ("Intergovernmental Review of Federal
Programs") remains in effect for the programs and activities to which it is applicable.
(b) Federal action limiting the policymaking discretion of the States should be taken only
where constitutional authority for the action is clear and certain and the national activity is
necessitated by the presence of a problem of national scope. For the purposes of this Order:
(1) It is important to recognize the distinction between problems of national scope (which may
justify Federal action) and problems that are merely common to the States (which will not justify
Federal action because individual States, acting individually or together, can effectively deal with
(2) Constitutional authority for Federal action is clear and certain only when authority for the
action may be found in a specific provision of the Constitution, there is no provision in the
Constitution prohibiting Federal action, and the action does not encroach upon authority reserved
to the States.
(c) With respect to national policies administered by the States, the national government
should grant the States the maximum administrative discretion possible. Intrusive, Federal
oversight of State administration is neither necessary nor desirable.
(d) When undertaking to formulate and implement policies that have federalism implications,
Executive departments and agencies shall:
(1) Encourage States to develop their own policies to achieve program objectives and to work
with appropriate officials in other States.
(2) Refrain, to the maximum extent possible, from establishing uniform, national standards
for programs and, when possible, defer to the States to establish standards.
(3) When national standards are required, consult with appropriate officials and organizations
representing the States in developing those standards.
Sec. 4 Special Requirements for Preemption. (a) To the extent permitted by law, Executive
departments and agencies shall construe, in regulations and otherwise, a Federal statute to
preempt State law only when the statute contains an express preemption provision or there is
some other firm and palpable evidence compelling the conclusion that the Congress intended
preemption of State law, or when the exercise of State authority directly conflicts with the
exercise of Federal authority under the Federal statute.
(b) Where a Federal statute does not preempt State law (as addressed in subsection (a) of this
section), Executive departments and agencies shall construe any authorization in the statute for
the issuance of regulations as authorizing preemption of State law by rule-making only when the
statute expressly authorizes issuance of preemptive regulations or there is some other firm and
palpable evidence compelling the conclusion that the Congress intended to delegate to the
department or agency the authority to issue regulations preempting State law.
(c) Any regulatory preemption of State law shall be restricted to the minimum level necessary
to achieve the objectives of the statute pursuant to which the regulations are promulgated.
(d) As soon as an Executive department or agency foresees the possibility of a conflict
between State law and Federally protected interests within its area of regulatory responsibility,
the department or agency shall consult, to the extent practicable, with appropriate officials and
organizations representing the States in an effort to avoid such a conflict.
(e) When an Executive department or agency proposes to act through adjudication or
rule-making to preempt State law, the department or agency shall provide all affected States
notice and an opportunity for appropriate participation in the proceedings.
Sec. 5. Special Requirements for Legislative Proposals. Executive departments and agencies
shall not submit to the Congress legislation that would:
(a) Directly regulate the States in ways that would interfere with functions essential to the
States' separate and independent existence or operate to directly displace the States' freedom to
structure integral operations in areas of traditional governmental functions;
(b) Attach to Federal grants conditions that are not directly related to the purpose of the
(c) Preempt State law, unless preemption is consistent with the fundamental federalism
principles set forth in section 2, and unless a clearly legitimate national purpose, consistent with
the federalism policymaking criteria set forth in section 3, cannot otherwise be met.
Sec. 6. Agency Implementation. (a) The head of each Executive department and agency shall
designate an official to be responsible for ensuring the implementation of this Order.
(b) In addition to whatever other actions the designated official may take to ensure
implementation of this Order, the designated official shall determine which proposed policies have
sufficient federalism implications to warrant the preparation of a Federalism Assessment. With
respect to each such policy for which an affirmative determination is made, a Federalism
Assessment, as described in subsection (c) of this section, shall be prepared. The department or
agency head shall consider any such Assessment in all decisions involved in promulgating and
implementing the policy.
(c) Each Federalism Assessment shall accompany any submission concerning the policy that
is made to the Office of Management and Budget pursuant to Executive Order No. 12291 or
OMB Circular No. A-19, and shall:
(1) Contain the designated official's certification that the policy has been assessed in light of
the principles, criteria, and requirements stated in sections 2 through 5 of this Order;
(2) Identify any provision or element of the policy that is inconsistent with the principles,
criteria, and requirements stated in sections 2 through 5 of this Order;
(3) Identify the extent to which the policy imposes additional costs or burdens on the States,
including the likely source of funding for the States and the ability of the States to fulfill the
purposes of the policy; and
(4) Identify the extent to which the policy would affect the States' ability to discharge
traditional State governmental functions, or other aspects of State sovereignty.
Sec. 7. Government-wide Federalism Coordination and Review.
(a) In implementing Executive Order Nos. 12291 and 12498 and OMB Circular No. A-19, the
Office of Management and Budget, to the extent permitted by law and consistent with the
provisions of those authorities, shall take action to ensure that the policies of the Executive
departments and agencies are consistent with the principles, criteria, and requirements stated in
sections 2 through 5 of this Order.
(b) In submissions to the Office of Management and Budget pursuant to Executive Order No.
12291 and OMB Circular No. A-19, Executive departments and agencies shall identify proposed
regulatory and statutory provisions that have significant federalism implications and shall address
any substantial federalism concerns. Where the departments or agencies deem it appropriate,
substantial federalism concerns should also be addressed in notices of proposed rule-making and
messages transmitting legislative proposals to the Congress.
Sec. 8 Judicial Review. This Order is intended only to improve the internal management of
the Executive branch, and is not intended to create any right or benefit, substantive or procedural,
enforceable at law by a party against the United States, its agencies, its officers, or any person.
THE WHITE HOUSE
October 26, 1987.
Exec. Order No. 12612, 52 FR 41685, 1987 WL 181433 (Pres.)