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Bench Book - 1.2.3 Compacts Are Not Administrative Agreements

Compacts differ from administrative agreements in two principal ways. First, states, as sovereigns, have inherent authority to enact Compacts. See Rhode Island v. Massachusetts, 37 U.S. (12 Pet.) 657, 725 (1838). Thus, states do not need any express authority to enact a Compact. In contrast, states must authorize agencies and executive officials to enact administrative agreements both intra and interstate. All states have such express authority in their constitutions, in generally applicable statutes, or in statutes that expressly authorize administrative agreements for specific purposes. These authorities commonly refer to administrative agreements as inter-local, intergovernmental, inter-municipal, or interagency agreements.

The second way that Compacts differ from administrative agreements is that state legislatures enact Compacts, whereas the executive branch enacts administrative agreements. However, the executive branch may enact Compacts if a Compact expressly authorizes executive enactment (See article VII(b)(1) of the Nonresident Violator Compact that specifically authorizes, “Entry into the Compact shall be made by a Resolution of Ratification executed by the authorized officials of the applying jurisdiction . . . .”). As well, Courts do not enforce improperly enacted Compacts. E.g., Sullivan v. Pa. Dep’t of Transp., 708 A.2d 481, 485 (Pa. 1998) (Driver License Compact called for legislature to enact reciprocal statutes; power to enact laws cannot be delegated to executive agency and thus the Compact was not “enacted” in Pennsylvania under an administrative agreement executed by state Department of Transportation even though authorized by statute to do so). In addition, administrative agreements enacted by the executive branches of state government may bind the executive entities but those agreements do not have the same force and effect to bind a state legislature as statutorily enacted Compacts. See, e.g., Gen. Expressways, Inc. v. Iowa Reciprocity Bd., 163 N.W.2d 413, 419 (Iowa 1968) (“We conclude the uniform Compact herein was more than a mere administrative agreement and did constitute a valid and binding contract of the State of Iowa.”).