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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


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