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When Red Statehouses Overrule Blue City Halls

Cleveland is one of many U.S. cities impacted by state preemption laws. (Photo by Aeroplanepics0112 via Flickr)

It’s no secret that the gulf between the social values of cities and the state governments that control them has been widening a long time. Cities skew Democratic, while in 25 states Republicans control both houses and the governorship. But with a Republican stranglehold over the federal government as well, the battle over preemption laws is heating up. A new report by the National League of Cities tallies which states have passed laws to restrict cities’ autonomy, and looks at how cities might fight back.

“State preemption efforts can lead to a loss of control for cities, and ultimately the control of the citizens that vote in their elected leaders,” says Clarence E. Anthony, executive director of the National League of Cities, who characterizes this as a time of transition in the relationship between city leaders and their state-level counterparts.

In recent years, movements to raise the minimum wage, provide paid sick leave, and guarantee protections for trans residents in particular have gained momentum in cities from Seattle to New York to Charlotte, North Carolina. But in the latter city, and many others, state preemption laws have prevented measures adopted by city councils and approved by voters from actually being implemented.

In North Carolina, the hotly contested HB2 not only struck down a local Charlotte ordinance that allowed trans people to use the bathroom of their choice and prohibited the passage of further anti-discrimination ordinances, but it also eliminated cities’ authority to increase the minimum wage over the state minimum. Despite the economic fallout of North Carolina’s so-called “bathroom bill,” 11 states followed suit.

The NLC report, “City Rights in an Era of Preemption: A State-by-State Analysis,” focuses on seven forms of preemption: those that restrict cities’ ability to pass laws regarding the minimum wage, paid leave, anti-discrimination protection, ride-sharing, home-sharing, municipal broadband, and those that place limitations on local tax and expenditure decisions. But those aren’t the only areas in which states are trying to strip cities of control. Preemption laws have also been passed or attempted around plastic bag ordinances, gun control, nutrition, rent control and, recently, funding for sanctuary cities.

Read more at the source: When Red Statehouses Overrule Blue City Halls


The Other Right-Wing Tidal Wave Sweeping America: Federal and State Preemption of Local Progressive Laws | Alternet

Photo Credit: Image by Shutterstock, Copyright (c) Cheapbooks

Last week, the National League of Cities released a report tracking an outbreak of state laws stepping on and nullifying local progressive laws and policies across the country. The picture it paints in seven key areas is shocking to anyone who believes in local democracy.

The report, “City Rights in an Era of Preemption,” says 24 states have preempted local minimum wage increases; 17 have stopped paid sick or family leave; three have voided anti-discrimination protections for LGBT individuals; three have stopped laws aimed at home sharing (like AirBnB that has tightened affordable housing options); 37 have blocked local regulation of ride sharing (that compete with the more heavily licensed taxis); 17 have blocked municipal broadband (challenging telecom monopolies); and 42 have limited local taxation and spending.

Preemption is the legal term that describes this legal assault, which extends to many more areas, among them firearms, factory farms, pesticide regulation, fracking, nutrition labeling, and e-cigarettes. In almost all instances, preemption is a deliberate state government-sanctioned corporate takeover to boost private profiteering by suppressing local government power, community groups and citizens. The big exception outside profiterting are anti-LGBT measures, which reflect another far-right agenda.

AlterNet’s Don Hazen and Steven Rosenfeld recently spoke to Mark Pertschuk, director of Grassroots Change and Preemption Watch about this insidious trend. Pertschuk discusses its growth in recent years, its explosion in 2016 and 2017 as Donald Trump has diverted media attention, and how grassroots protests have been effective in exposing, slowing and stopping some brazen corporate power grabs.

Pertschuk’s message is harrowing and hopeful. On the one hand, there is huge momentum behind preemption that often protects corporate interests, but sometimes is simply a stand in for right-wing ideology. There is hope, however, because there are key cases where community activists have been able to marshall broad public support and legislatures have backed down. And increasingly, elected officials like Tallahassee, Florida, Mayor Andrew Gillum, have beaten the GOP and gun lobby in court, and are creating coalitions with other elected officials to defend local democracy.

Read more at the source: The Other Right-Wing Tidal Wave Sweeping America: Federal and State Preemption of Local Progressive Laws | Alternet