Unfunded Mandates Reform Act

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2 U.S.C. §§ 1501-1571 (2012); enacted March 22, 1995, by Pub. L. No. 104–4, 109 Stat. 48.

Lead Agencies:

Office of Management and Budget, Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs

Congressional Budget Office, Budget Analysis Division


This legislation, which was enacted in 1995 with broad, bipartisan support, requires Congress and federal agencies (excepting independent agencies) to give special consideration to proposed legislation and regulations imposing mandates on state, local, and tribal entities. It also contains a special provision (added at the end of the legislative process) requiring agencies to prepare a special statement, in the nature of a regulatory impact analysis, for any proposed rulemaking that is likely to result in an expenditure by the private sector in excess of $100 million. The Act thus contains the only broad regulatory impact analysis requirement currently mandated by statute, and as such codifies many of the provisions in Executive Order 12,866. The Act’s impact is, however, somewhat lessened because its provisions for judicial review of agency compliance with the Act are somewhat limited.

The Act’s purpose was to help reveal, and ultimately limit, the high (and often hidden) costs of federal mandates on state and local governments to undertake regulatory activity without sufficient federal compensation for this activity.

Title I of the Act modifies the legislative process by requiring any Congressional authorizing committee that approves a bill containing a federal mandate (with some exceptions) to identify that mandate in its committee report. The Congressional Budget Office must then estimate the overall impact of such mandates and a point of order can be raised by any member against a bill that lacks such an estimate or if the bill contains an unfunded mandate exceeding $50 million burden on state and local governments or $100 million on the private sector.

Title II of the Act addresses agency regulations containing regulatory mandates of state, local, and tribal governments and on the private sector. The key requirement is for a “statement to accompany significant regulatory actions.” The statement is required in “any general notice of proposed rulemaking that is likely to result in the expenditure by State, local, and tribal governments, in the aggregate, or by the private sector, of $100,000,000 or more (adjusted annually for inflation) in any 1 year.”

The statement must include (1) citation to the law under which the rule is being promulgated, (2) “a qualitative and quantitative assessment of the anticipated costs and benefits of the Federal mandate. . . as well as the effect of the Federal mandate on health, safety, and the natural environment,” along with an analysis of the availability of federal funds to help governments pay for the mandate, (3) estimates of future compliance costs and of disproportionate budgetary effects on regions or particular governments or segments of the private sector, (4) estimates of the effect on aspects of the national economy, and (5) a summary of the agency’s consultations with elected representatives. The agency must also develop a plan to specially notify small governments of such requirements and develop a process to receive meaningful and timely input from elected officials. An exemption from the Federal Advisory Committee Act is carved out for such consultations. A summary of this statement must appear in the notice of proposed rulemaking. However, the Act does allow agencies to prepare the statement “in conjunction with or as a part of any other statement or analysis . . .”

Before issuing a final rule that was subject to the above requirements, the agency must “identify and consider a reasonable number of regulatory alternatives and from those alternatives, select the least costly, most cost-effective or least burdensome alternative that achieves the objectives of the rule.”

Judicial review of agency compliance with the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act is limited. The Act provides that judicial review of the agency statements accompanying significant regulatory actions is subject to review only under 5 U.S.C. § 706(1)—which allows courts to “compel agency action unlawfully withheld or unreasonably delayed.” This means that courts may compel the production of such agency statements but cannot review the contents of them. In fact, the Act makes clear that “the inadequacy or failure to prepare such statement (including the inadequacy or failure to prepare any estimate, analysis, statement or description) or written plan shall not be used as a basis for staying, enjoining, invalidating or otherwise affecting such agency rule.”

The Act requires OMB to submit annual reports to Congress on agency compliance with Title II of the Act, and OMB has submitted such reports since 1996.

Legislative History

In the 103rd Congress, eight bills were introduced that addressed the issue of unfunded mandates. This was directly in response to the pressure building over the previous 15 years from state and local governments. Over those years, Congress continued a pattern of cutting federal funding while enacting statutes that passed costs onto state and local governments without providing funding to cover those costs. To demonstrate their dissatisfaction, the state and local governments declared October 27, 1993, “National Unfunded Mandates Day.”

S. 993 had the strongest support in the 103rd Congress. It was introduced by Senator Dirk Kempthorne (R-ID) as the Community Regulatory Relief Act, and had more than 50 co-sponsors. However, S. 993 was not considered for a vote, and Congress adjourned without further consideration of the bill.

A new bill was introduced in the 104th Congress as S. 1 and H.R. 5, “The Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995.” It was rapidly reported out of committee in both houses. In February, the House passed H.R. 5, and amended and passed S. 1. After disagreement between the House and Senate over amendments, the bill went to a conference committee (H.R. Rep. No. 104-76 (1995)). Both houses agreed to the conference report. The Senate vote was 91-9 and the House vote was 394-28.

On March 22, 1995, The Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995 was signed into law by President Clinton as Pub. L. No. 104-4.


Legislative History and Congressional Documents

Executive Orders and White House Documents

  • Executive Order 13,175, Consultation and Coordination with Indian Tribal Governments, 65 Fed. Reg. 67,249 (Nov. 9, 2000).

OMB/OIRA Documents

Reports to Congress on Unfunded Mandates

Other OMB Documents

Congressional Budget Office Documents

Other Government Documents

Books and Articles

Statutory Provisions

Unfunded Mandates Reform Act,

Title 2 U.S. Code, Chapter 25—Unfunded Mandates Reform