Local Preemption Targeted by LOCAL Maryland Coalition, and MACo Bill

The LOCAL Maryland Coalition and MACo joined forces to discuss the goals of their collaboration to fight against state preemption, and to discuss a forthcoming bill designed to clarify the process for any future legislative preemption.

Delegate Karen Lewis Young, House sponsor of MACo’s initiative bill to clarify the legislative and judicial roles in future state debates about local preemption. Photo by Hannah Gaskill, courtesy of Maryland Matters.

LOCAL Maryland, a coalition formed to defend communities’ rights to respond to local matters, and when appropriate to tailor state laws to fit their needs, raised awareness of these issues during a press event on January 17. MACo and MML, representing local governments, joined the event, and have been collaborating with the many organizations formally part of the coalition.

While the LOCAL Maryland coalition expects to take up a number of bills to resist restrictive language seeking to preempt local governments, the discussion also included mention of MACo’s legislative initiative on implied preemption. From MACo’s own description of the initiative:

Repeal “Implied Preemption” Court Doctrine

Maryland courts have adopted, albeit inconsistently, a novel theory of State preemption over local actions – finding that counties may be preempted even without any State law explicitly stating so. This principle was used years ago to invalidate multiple local tobacco regulations, and more recently on local pesticide restrictions and land use decisions for energy facilities.

Legislation should clarify, prospectively, that preemption should not take place in the courts, but in the open and accessible lawmaking process, where all stakeholders may be heard on the merits of their arguments.

Delegate Karen Lewis Young, sponsor of the forthcoming MACo bill, reflected on her background in local government, recognizing that “one size doesn’t fit all.” From Maryland Matters coverage of the discussion:

“When we come to Annapolis, we need to balance the need to think as a state legislator and what’s good for the state with the fact that sometimes that may not be best for our local community,” she said. “What works well in Ocean City or Baltimore or the western part of the state may not make sense for Frederick.”

Read the full Maryland Matters coverage for more detail on the coalition effort, or the MACo priority legislation.


Michael Sanderson

Executive Director Maryland Association of Counties