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The power of local governments to pass laws that protect the health, safety and welfare of their citizens is waning and under increasing attack. Over the past four years, a historic number of local interference (preemption) bills have been filed and passed in state capitals across the country. Over time, these bills, crafted to strip local governments of their power to act on everything from fracking bans to anti-discrimination measures, have become wider in scope and more hostile to home rule. More industries and special interest groups now consider preemption a legislative imperative, including the oil and gas industry and groups opposing LGBTQ rights.
On August 28, 2017, low-wage workers in St. Louis, Missouri, became the latest victims of state preemption laws. "Preemption" in this context refers to a situation in which a state law is enacted to block a local ordinance from taking effect - or dismantle an existing ordinance. In this case, St. Louis had raised its minimum wage above the state minimum - but was then forced to lower it back down when the Missouri state legislature preempted the local ordinance. Ironically, state preemption of labor standards has historically been used for good: to ensure that minimum labor standards are applied statewide. It is only in recent years that it has been so frequently used to take earnings and protections away from workers. This report looks at the rising use of preemption by state legislatures to undercut local labor standards.
Coordinated messaging from industry lobbyists and state legislators who support preemption is similar or identical across issues and states. This document lays out a number of predictable pro-preemption statements or messages, followed by accurate messages you can use to refute them, or to counter them in advance.