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Local Control Is Now “Loco” Control

August 2019

Citation: ELR 10767

Author: Kim S. Haddow

Cities have become a critical source of innovation across a wide array of policy areas that advance inclusion, equitable opportunity, and social justice. In the absence of state and federal action, cities and other local governments have taken the lead in enacting minimum wage and paid sick leave policies, expanding the boundaries of civil rights, tackling public health challenges, responding to emerging environmental threats, and advancing new technologies. But this expansion in the role of cities has been met with an increase in the use and scope of state preemption laws now crafted deliberately to strip local governments of their power to regulate. While this wave of “New Preemption,” seems without precedent, Prof. Richard Schragger’s article, The Attack on American Cities, reminds us that “hostility to city government is not new.” In fact, the recent surge in state preemption is built on a long history of anti-urbanism “that is deeply embedded in the structure of American federalism” and a function of enduring cultural biases. Schragger makes a compelling case that the recent explosion of preemptive state legislation is the latest in a long-term unbroken attack on cities. But it is important to note this most recent siege is distinctive in its magnitude, malice and disruption of democratic norms. 

Kim S. Haddow is the Director of Local Solutions Support Center.

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