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During the 1970s, the national government promoted education, mental health, and environmental programs by implementing grant projects at a state and local level; the grants were so common that the federal assistance for these programs made up over a quarter of state and local budgets.
The official legislation summarizes the bill as being: "An Act: To curb the practice of imposing unfunded Federal mandates on States and local governments; [...] and to ensure that the Federal Government pays the costs incurred by those governments in complying with certain requirements under Federal statutes and regulations, and for other purposes." It also allowed the Congressional Budget Office to estimate the cost of mandates to SLTGs and to the private sector, and allows federal agencies issuing mandates to estimate the costs of mandates to the entities that said mandates regulate.For example, a mandate requiring county health departments to provide outpatient mental health programs would be considered a vertically applied mandate, whereas a requirement that all offices in a given jurisdiction to become handicap-accessible would be considered a horizontally applied mandate.Federal unfunded mandates can be traced back to the post-World War II years, when the federal government initiated national programs in education, mental health services, and environmental protection.The Clean Air Act was passed in 1963 to support the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), established on December 2, 1970, in developing research programs looking into air pollution problems and solutions.
The EPA received authority to research air quality.An agency enforcing the mandate must also choose the least-costly option that still achieves the goals of the mandate, as well as consult with elected officials of the SLTG to allow for their input on the implementation of the mandate and its goals.