While no accurate compilation of all proposed federal mandates currently exists, many analysts agree that the use of mandates at the federal level increased markedly during the socially activist years of the 1960s and 1970s. It wasn't until the very late seventies, however, that federal grants-in-aid began their steady decline, to be replaced more and more by federal directives. That trend accelerated in the 1980s.
The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) has been tracking mandates introduced in Congress since 1990. Many other mandates originate in regulatory agencies and judicial entities of government. Currently, there is no organization in place that adequately tracks all these on a regular basis.
The Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations (ACIR) published a study of mandates and preemptions in a September 1992 paper entitled, Federal Statutory Preemption of State and Local Authority: History, Inventory, and Issues. According to ACIR, 27 new mandates and preemptions were enacted in the 1950s, 47 in the 1960s, and 100 in the 1980s. Currently there are more than 400 on the books. Those affecting health, safety and the environment – major concerns to state government – have more than tripled since the 1950s, from 9 to 32 in the 1980s. Likewise in the areas of commerce, banking, finance and taxes.
The data contained in Table 1 reflects this explosion of mandates and preemptions. Significantly, relief statutes (modifying or voiding mandates) haven't come close to keeping pace with the mandates that have been introduced over the years as shown in column seven of Table 1.