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This Week in Statehouse Action: Doctor, Doctor edition

1528, Illustration from an early treatise on field surgery. A man's arm is strapped into a splint and traction is being applied to the limb. Original Artwork: Pub - Joannem Schott - Strasbourg (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

Get up come on get down with the sickness

I’ve got a fever, and the only prescription is … less BS.

Yeah, I know, I’m basically dead, right? RIP me.

Alas, Nonsense Burnout didn’t make it into the DSM-5, so instead of taking a sick day, I get to engage in some therapy here, with you.

Send me your bill.

Campaign Action

An Ounce Of Preemption Is Worth A Pound Of: One of the less-noticed phenomena of the GOP’s dominance in state legislatures over the past decade is the glut of preemption laws Republican lawmakers have been routinely using to undermine the local authority of (often more liberal) city and municipal governments.

Fun fact! North Carolina’s infamous Bathroom Bill was one of these preemption laws—the Republican-controlled legislature passed it specifically in response to a Charlotte city ordinance that allowed folks to use the bathroom corresponding with the gender with which they identify.

  • Theoretically, preemption measures are used establish a sort of hierarchy to prevent conflicts between state laws and local ordinances and ensure that statewide policies are generally applied uniformly.
    • They’ve also been used to set a “floor” below which municipalities are not permitted to fall with regard to things like civil rights protections and employment and wage standards.
  • Over the past eight years (read: since Republicans came into ginormous power in state legislatures after the 2010 elections), however, many state-level preemption efforts have been used to bar localities from addressing local problems and issues—and to expressly punish jurisdictions that suddenly find themselves in violation of these new laws.
    • Take, for example, the mid-decade situation Pennsylvania cities found themselves in.
      • For decades, around 100 Keystone State cities/towns/boroughs/etc. had effectively ignored the existing state statute preventing them from regulating guns beyond what was allowed statewide—they just went ahead and implemented the gun safety measures the locals wanted.
        • In order to sue over these local ordinances, you had to (a) be a resident of the locality in question and (b) demonstrate you’d been “injured” by the law in question.
          • Few were willing or able to do so.
      • But the passage of Act 192 in 2014 changed all that.
        • This measure allowed well-funded outside groups like the NRA to sue municipalities over these gun restrictions—and, by allowing a victorious plaintiff (but not the city, if it won) to recoup all legal costs from the defeated local government, the financial burdens of even winning a lawsuit, much less losing, were too much for most places to risk.
      • Nearly 100 Pennsylvania municipalities scrambled to repeal their gun ordinances—basically “at gunpoint,” according to one borough council president.
      • Larger cities that could afford the inevitable litigation, however, stood firm.
        • In fact, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Lancaster sued the state’s top (GOP) elected officials over the new law right after it passed.
        • The NRA turned right around and sued those cities.
      • Ultimately, Act 192 was thrown out by state courts, and the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld that decision when it finally landed on their bench in 2016—but on procedural grounds, not the merits of the issue.
    • Over in Arizona passed a law in 2016 appropriately described as “the mother of all local preemption bills,” a measure that withholds all shared revenue from a town, city, or county that passes an ordinance that conflicts with state law.
      • Basically, localities literally can’t afford to defy the (GOP-controlled) state government.

Fast forward to, well, now—the State Innovation Exchange (SiX) and the Local Solution Support Center have delivered a lightly belated Christmas in July gift (to me, anyway) by issuing an excellent report on state preemption laws, which you should totally read with all the free time I know you have.

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