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State Legislatures in Red States Turning to Preemption to Thwart Local Progressive Actions

© Krantz News Service, October 2, 2017


State preemption of local action is one of the top trends in state policymaking. On a wide range of issues, state legislatures in red states are looking at city and county ordinances and saying, "Not so fast."

With Republicans in control of the federal government and more than half of state governments nationwide, Democrats and progressive interest groups have turned to local governments to promote change. In response, Republicans have passed legislation barring changes from state policies in those areas.

A case in point is the minimum wage.

The city of St. Louis in 2015 raised the minimum wage, scheduling an increase ultimately to $11. Earlier this year the Republican-controlled Missouri General Assembly passed a bill barring any increases above the state minimum wage of $7.70 per hour. In the summer the state's Republican governor, Eric Greitens, let the bill become law without his signature, stating that the minimum wage increase would kill jobs.

Business leaders hailed the outcome, citing the importance of a level playing field across local jurisdictions within the state. "This ensures Missouri companies aren't faced with complying with a patchwork of workplace laws," the Missouri Chamber of Commerce stated.

A similar story unfolded but with a much different outcome in Minnesota. As leaders in certain cities developed plans to increase the minimum wage, the Republican-controlled Minnesota State Legislature acted in a May special session.

They passed SF 3 preempting local governments from setting wage and benefit levels higher than state law. But Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton vetoed the bill, citing the rationale for backers of a higher base pay.

"The role of state government is to set minimum standards for workplace protections, wages, and benefits, not maximums," he wrote in a veto message. "Should local officials, who were elected by their constituents in their communities, approve wage and benefit levels to meet the needs of their residents, they ought to retain the right to do so."

"Local governments can be more adept at responding to local needs with ordinances that reflect local values and the unique needs of their communities. State government does not always know what works best for every community, and may lag behind when improvements are needed".

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