Local control is being stripped from municipalities


Some elected officials in Madison have their own special relationship with Milwaukee – the states largest city. For years Republican lawmakers have been actively working to strip Milwaukee of its’ resources and power. They haven’t been working alone though. Gov. Walker surely plays a role, as well as larger conservative groups.

Henry Grabar of Slate has a fascinating look at how these groups target cities for takeover:

In May 2011, Wisconsin’s Republican Gov. Scott Walker approved Senate Bill 23, which prohibited the state’s municipalities from enacting paid sick leave laws. From the outside, it might’ve appeared as if he was swinging a sledgehammer at a very tiny nail. While the bill applied to every city, town, village, and county in Wisconsin, only one jurisdiction in the state had a paid sick leave law on the books: Milwaukee, a Democratic stronghold.

Milwaukee’s ordinance, approved in a 2008 referendum by 69 percent of voters, would have required large businesses to offer full-time workers nine paid sick days a year and businesses with fewer than 10 employees to offer five sick days a year. Ensnared by legal challenges, the law had never taken effect but had been ruled constitutional by the state’s 4th District Court of Appeals in March 2011. Two months later, Bill 23 arrived on Walker’s desk, and paid sick leave in Wisconsin was dead.

Bill 23 is an example of state pre-emption, a tactic that has quietly come to exert a powerful influence on American civic life during a time of political impasse in Washington. The federal government sometimes pre-empts state laws—as Congress did in nullifying Vermont’s food-labeling law in July—but more often, pre-emption is a tool used by conservative statehouses to restrict the ability of cities, towns, and counties to chart their own destiny. Remember North Carolina’s HB2, aka the “bathroom bill,” the one that bars places like Charlotte from passing LGBTQ anti-discrimination laws? That is a textbook instance of pre-emption. And Republican-controlled statehouses across the country are deploying the tactic with increasing fervor.

For more on these tactics, visit Slate.com