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City Rights in an Era of Preemption: New Report from National League of Cities

The National League of Cities, in partnership with state municipal leagues, released their report, which examines state preemption across the country in seven key policy areas.


iStock-179352282.jpgBy National League of Cities

On February 22, 2017, National League of Cities (NLC) in partnership with the state municipal leagues released a new report entitled, “City Rights in an Era of Preemption.” The report examines the prevalence of state preemption across the country in seven key policy areas: minimum wage, paid leave, anti-discrimination, home sharing, ride sharing, municipal broadband, and tax and expenditure limitations (TELs).

“Preemption efforts – where state law nullifies a municipal ordinance or authority – lead to a loss of local control and can have far-reaching economic and social impacts in our communities,” said NLC’s CEO and Executive Director Clarence E. Anthony. “Local leaders should be empowered to adapt policies to meet the needs of their residents, ensuring cities have the tools they need to build stronger economies, promote innovation and move the country forward.”

In recent years, the report finds that state legislatures have gotten more aggressive with preemption efforts. Preemption bills often concern politically divisive issues and rely on single party dominance to pass through state legislatures. As of the 2016 election cycle, Republicans have 25 government trifectas, meaning they control both legislative chambers and the governor’s office, while Democrats have trifectas in six states and control a larger portion of city halls.

States can preempt cities from legislating on issues either by statutory or constitutional law, and in some cases, court rulings.

The report finds:

  • 24 states preempt local minimum wage ordinances
  • 17 states preempt local paid leave ordinances
  • 3 states explicitly preempt local anti-discrimination ordinances
  • 37 states limit local authority to regulate ride sharing
  • 3 states limit local authority to regulate home sharing
  • 17 states preempt localities from establishing municipal broadband service
  • 42 states limit local fiscal authority through tax and expenditure limitations (TELs)