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Tuesday, 10 January 2017 06:47

Republican-Dominated State Legislatures Mobilize to Preempt Progressive Local Laws

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3622561994 322baa7a0a zThere are 24 states whose governments are controlled by Republicans as compared to only 6 such Democratic states. (Photo: Jimmy Emerson, DVM )

BuzzFlash recently reported on how the reactionary threat in many statehouses is growing.

We noted the fact that 24 states have both Republican-dominated legislatures and GOP governors. Meanwhile, only 17 states have Democratic governors and only 13 statehouses are controlled by Democrats.

These numbers provide an indicator of the right-wing tidal wave -- largely in Southern and small states -- that continues to advance Republican control of states, in part due to state-level gerrymandering after the 2010 election. After the 2016 elections, the Republicans reached a percentage of representation at the state level that is the highest since its founding as a political party.

This high water mark for Republicans on the state level has serious implications. A January 5 article in The Hill reveals the continued efforts of GOP-controlled states to prohibit various progressive laws at the local level, particularly in cities. This is an accelerating strategy to stifle grassroots progressive victories:

After consolidating power in Washington, D.C., and state capitals under President-elect Donald Trump, Republicans are moving to prevent large cities dominated by Democrats from enacting sweeping liberal agendas.

Republican state legislatures are planning so-called preemption laws, which prevent cities and counties from passing new measures governing everything from taxes to environmental regulations and social issues.

For example, The Hill notes, the Ohio state legislature just passed a law prohibiting Cleveland or any other city in the Buckeye state from raising the minimum wage higher than the state level of $8.10 an hour ($7.25 per hour for small businesses). Cleveland was going to consider mandating at $15 minimum wage in a referendum this spring. More reactionary preemption measures are in the pipeline nationally, The Hill reports:

In recent decades, tobacco companies have used preemption laws to overcome local smoking bans, and the National Rifle Association turned to preemption to block cities from implementing new gun control measures. 

But in the last four years, after Republicans swept to power in legislatures across the country, the number of issues on which states are asserting their rights has skyrocketed, said Mark Pertschuk, director of the Oakland-based Grassroots Change, which keeps close tabs on preemption legislation....

The conservative American Legislative Exchange Council[ALEC] has offered five sample preemption bills on everything from local minimum wage hikes to rules governing genetically modified food and other agriculture products.

Many progressives are focused on the perils in store with a Trump presidency. However, the state level needs vigorous oversight by activist causes. ALEC is going to continue to be a nefarious active player in offering conservative states fill-in-the-blank legislation to render local governing bodies (including counties) powerless to enact progressive bills by rendering them moot under state law. Pertschuk says of 2017 and state preemption efforts of local legislation for the common good: "“This is going to be the worst year we’ve ever had.”  Watch out for ALEC bills that mimic North Carolina's prohibition of transgender bathroom rights, for example, and bills aimed at stomping out a livable wage in cities -- and everything in between.

It is worth repeating that while Donald Trump won the Electoral College vote, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by approximately three million votes. Meanwhile, the Democrats -- and third parties -- have generally put up a lackluster strategic fight against Republican dominance on the state level. As a result, local progressive laws are likely to be under grave threat due to planned state preemption laws in many states.