Blue cities in red states have reason to be blue. As in sad. | Arkansas Blog

Blue cities in red states have reason to be blue. As in sad.

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The New York Times' Upshot reports here on a trend long evident in Arkansas — the penchant of conservatively governed states to take away powers from cities that might be inclined to adopt more liberal policies within their boundaries.

Republicans didn't invent this in Arkansas. The gun lobby did. It took away home rule on gun laws decades ago, when the Democrats controlled the Capitol.

The Upshot looks at Republican-controlled states and where they've adopted policies to constrain cities. According to the chart, Arkansas law limits, for example, the ability of cities to provide protection for LGBTQ people; to be more generous with minimum wage and paid leave, and to provide municipal broadband. The legislature in Arkansas hasn't yet stepped in as some others have to prevent cities from banning plastic grocery bags or fracking or from being "sanctuary" cities. Upshot comments:

These new pre-emption laws echo 19th-century “ripper bills,” legal scholars say, state laws that ripped control from cities over their finances, utilities, police forces and local charters. The backlash against them helped spur the movement for local control in the United States. Now home rule is under a “troubling nationwide assault,” warn municipal lawyers and law professors, including Mr. Davidson, in an amicus brief supporting another legal fight, in Cleveland.

There, Ohio passed a law blocking a longstanding requirement that city construction contracts hire some local workers. Cleveland, in other words, was trying to ensure that local projects created local jobs, alleviating local poverty.

Both state legislators and municipal groups agree that pre-emption laws have proliferated in the last few years in number and in the breadth of issues they touch. They disagree on who started the fight: states in stripping municipal power, or cities in seizing new roles that weren’t theirs to begin with.
Hypocrisy abounds.

The contrast between what’s happening in cities and the decentralized philosophy Republicans have championed from Washington is striking. The supremacy of local control is central to Republican plans for undoing Obamacare, rolling back regulations and leaving the federal minimum wage unchanged (wages, the party said in its platform last year, should be handled at the state and local level).

As House Speaker Paul Ryan has put it: “Government closest to the people governs best.”

That government, many local legislators clarify now, is the state.
With Republican dominance of legislatures at a record high (and well-protected by partisan districting) and the influence of cookie-cutter legislation sponsored by the American Legislative Exchange Council (a lobby for corporate interests like the Kochs) things seem likely to get worse.


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