States Pre-Empting Local Govts: National Trend, Surfacing in MD

A Route Fifty article discusses a growing movement among many states – especially those with republican majorities – seeking to pre-empt actions by their local governments.

With the federal government and most states controlled by conservative Republicans this year, Democrats are looking to Democratic cities and counties to stand up for progressive policy.

But they may want to temper their expectations. State lawmakers have blocked city action on a range of economic, environmental and human rights issues, including liberal priorities such as minimum wage increases, in recent years. And the stage looks set for more confrontation between cities and states this year.

In Maryland, even Democratic leaders have engaged in the pre-emption approach, in multiple labor-related areas.

The high profile “Sick and Safe Leave Bill” proposed again this year (HB 1 and SB 230) includes a pre-emption of similar county initiatives – actively curtailing a law in place in Montgomery County, but also precluding action by any other jurisdictions.

More recently, Delegate Davis introduced another far-reaching pre-emption proposal, HB 317, precluding local action on minimum wages.

The Route Fifty article speculates that these inherent conflicts may continue nationwide — but also belie many collaboration opportunities — pointing toward infrastructure as an obvious common ground:

There’s still plenty of room for cities and states to cooperate this year, regardless of political differences, said Bruce Katz, who studies cities at the Brookings Institution, a centrist Washington, D.C., think tank.

“We’re probably spending a little bit too much time talking about the conflict side, and not talking enough about cooperation,” he said.

City and state leaders typically set politics aside to tackle big projects, such as investments in infrastructure, Katz said. They also team up to fight federal policy they don’t like, such as budget cuts.

Michael Sanderson

Executive Director Maryland Association of Counties