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Over the past five years, conservative states have been in a lawmaking frenzy to overrule local ordinances on issues as diverse as the minimum wage, taxicab licensing, workplace discrimination, and who may use which bathroom.
It’s called pre-emption, and as I wrote earlier this month, it has become the most powerful statehouse tactic of our time. What began as an industry-driven attempt to abolish cities’ restrictions on guns and smoking has evolved into a reflex to restrain virtually any local initiative that a statehouse doesn’t like.
North Carolina’s homophobic and transphobic HB2, passed by a heavily gerrymandered statehouse to abolish a Charlotte anti-discrimination law, is a notable recent example. But the capital of pre-emption may be Arizona, whose statehouse has been uniquely aggressive in its drive to dismantle local control in Tempe, Tucson, and Phoenix, three left-leaning cities.
Arizona’s Legislature has quashed local laws on everything from puppies to guns. It has pre-emptively pre-empted cities from making laws about plastic bags or employee scheduling (i.e. requiring employers to give advance notice of shift changes). And this year, it passed a law that suspends city funding for services like police and fire if the state attorney general finds conflict between city and state laws.