Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Semester of Degree Completion


Thesis Director

Richard A. Wandling


Federalism and Intergovernmental Relations (IGR) saturates the academic study and practice of public administration. The two are combined into a structure of government (federalism) and the flow of information and instructions within that structure (IGR). Forming a single and complex theoretical approach to public administration, they offer definition and clarification to the nature of American government. However, the approach is inherently biased - as currently offered. Deliberate or not, it stresses the supremacy of each level of government over lesser units - a clear hierarchical structure. A pyramid is often described with individual citizens as the foundation and national government leadership at the apex.

This thesis offers another viewpoint and rebuffs the current trend. States are complex entities. Although they often act for the federal government, either as bureaucratic intermediaries or allies; states retain the capability and capacity to act independently.

The thesis offers three frameworks to assess state operations. Two are familiar; the third is the basis of the thesis. Resting upon the nature of 'autonomy' and 'intrusion,' the three help define relationships between the federal and state government.

The first framework describes the state as a bureaucratic entity. States administer federal programs on behalf of, and under the oversight and review of, the national government. The second refers to the state as a federal government ally. The state has some autonomy to address its own concerns - yet remains junior to the federal government. The federal government still retains some authority over the state.

The third framework goes beyond the focus upon the federal government. Rather, it sees the state as an autonomous actor pursuing its own interest. The federal government does not possess authority over the state and does not directly or indirectly influence state operations (e.g., financial aid). States establish, fund, operate, and oversee programs and projects without federal interference. Such state operations do exist.

This thesis demonstrates the applicability of the third framework using the case study approach. The Division of Safety Inspection and Education (DSIE) of the Illinois Department of Labor (IDOL) is used to define and clarify the proposed framework. The federal counterpart is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) under the US Department of Labor enacted under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. DSIE operates under the third framework. It is an autonomous operation - free of federal interference, intrusion, and oversight. DSIE is maintained and funded solely from state revenue.

Although largely forgotten in the rush to focus upon the national government; states remain a critical level of government when meeting the needs and concerns of their constituents. States will take action alone and without federal involvement or assistance. States are still the first bastions for change and will continue to serve this function well into the future, a function they never lost.