City Rights in an Era of Preemption: 2018 Update

April 6, 2018

National League of Cities

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The National League of Cities released an update to its report, City Rights in an Era of Preemption, that reveals state preemption of local authority is increasing throughout the country. More than half of all states now ban local efforts to combat inequality through minimum wage policy, while 23 states have denied local governments the power to enact paid sick leave policies. States have shut down local LGBTQ anti-discrimination ordinances, undermined efforts to advance environmental protection, and stifled innovation by preventing cities from having a say on high-speed broadband.

NLC’s research analyzes state preemption bills and judicial activity in the areas of minimum wage, paid leave, anti-discrimination, ride hailing, home sharing, municipal broadband, and tax and expenditure limitations. Compared to last year, 19 new laws were passed that will prevent cities from helping their communities across these seven policy areas.

Additional states preempted local governments in the following ways: 
  • 12 percent increase in minimum wage preemption laws (3 additional states for a total of 28) 
  • 21 percent increase in paid leave preemption laws (4 additional states for a total of 23)
  • 11 percent increase in ride sharing preemption laws (4 additional states for a total of 41)
  • 67 percent increase in home sharing preemption laws (2 additional states for a total of 5)
  • 18 percent increase in municipal broadband preemption laws (3 additional states for a total of 20).
Increased preemption has been linked to lobbying efforts by special interests, the spatial sorting of political preferences between urban and rural areas, and single-party dominance in most state governments. As preemption proliferates, local leaders are prevented from keeping people safe, expanding rights, building stronger economies, and promoting innovation. 

Divorcing decision-making from the wants and needs of community members in this way creates an environment that counters the values of local democracy. To ensure that the core values of community members are heard and reflected in the policies and priorities of government, NLC launched the Local Democracy Initiative, of which this report is a key component. NLC is also working to equip city leaders with tools and strategies to prevent and reverse preemption through peer learning, evidence-based research and policy development.

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