Preserving Local Control


Across America, efforts to enact to enact local laws on a range of issues are the focus of a growing trend: they are being preempted by state legislation that undermines local democracy.

This is happening all over the country, from North Carolina’s famous “bathroom bill,” which overturned Charlotte’s nondiscrimination ordinance, to Tallahassee’s struggles to address gun violence in the face of state preemption, to Wisconsin’s preemption of paid sick days laws, to minimum wage laws in Minnesota cities.

While control over some policies has always resided at the state and federal level, the pace and scope of preemption has increased greatly in the last decade. Some see it as a concerted effort by conservative state lawmakers to punish more progressive cities.

Technical Assistance for Members

Member cities can request up to three short policy memos per year on the topics that you need the most help with.  Learn more.

What Cities Can Do

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Join Forces

Mayors and cities should join with other local leaders across their state to advocate for themselves. The Ohio Mayors Alliance has advocated for everything from infrastructure to opiates.

Lead by Example

Cities can implement new policies within the city government first to set the stage for broader appeal. The Atlanta, GA City Council increased minimum wage for city employees to $15, and Pittsburgh, PA raised its minimum wage for city employees to $12.50.

Finances & Contracting

Cities can accomplish other policy aims through finances and contracting. Somerville, MA tackled climate change by divesting their retirement funds from fossil fuels. Learn more about divesting your city’s assets here.

Other cities like Chicago, IL, Los Angeles, CA and Austin, TX required municipal purchases to be certified as sweatshop-free.

Executive Policy

The Harris County D.A. and Houston city officials were effectively able to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana in practice, by eliminating most arrests and prosecutions and replacing them instead with an education program.