Balanced Regulatory Federalism?: Assessing Enforcement Trends and Variation
Between Federal and State-Run OSHA Programs 1991-2000
James Vike, Ph.D.
One University Place
Chester, PA 19013
A Paper Presented to the Bureaucratic Politics Section of the 2004 Annual Meeting of
the Southern Political Science Association, January 10, 2004, New Orleans, Louisiana.
Many contemporary scholars of bureaucratic politics in the United States have criticized the
classic tendency to view regulatory policy enforcement as a function of centralized implementation of
national regulatory programs, with potential influence arising only from federal-level elected officials
(see for example: Gerber and Teske 2000; Waterman, Rouse and Wright 1998). They argue that
future scholarship on regulatory policy enforcement should include greater attentiveness to sub-
national influences on regulatory activities at all levels. This charge seems quite sensible, given the
pivotal role of federalism in the development and ongoing implementation of regulatory policy.
Attentiveness to state-level implementation is particularly important in the area of occupational safety
and health because congressional mandates require the Occupational Safety and Health
Administration to encourage the creation of state-run OSHA programs and hand off monitoring and
enforcement activities to authorized state agencies. To obtain and retain authorization, a state must
develop standards and conduct enforcement programs in a manner that is at least as effective as the
federal OSHA program.
In this paper I attempt to expand the understanding of regulatory federalism by examining
variations in regulatory enforcement loads between federal regulatory agencies and individual state-
run programs. To support this project, I examine ten years of regulatory outputs data from the
federal OSHA program and comprehensive OSHA programs currently operated by twenty-one