Proposed “preemption” laws threaten local democracy and civil rights

Counties, cities, towns, and other local governmental units across the country have been leaders in developing public policies that expand civil rights and otherwise promote the public interest. Minneapolis and St. Paul have both exemplified this trend when, for example, declaring themselves sanctuary cities and by adopting paid sick leave ordinances.

Corporate interests have sought to override the progressive policies of local governments through a number of means, however, including pushing “preemption” laws to be passed by State legislatures. When passed, these State laws prevent local governmental bodies from adopting policies that their residents want and need. The recent experience with HB2 legislation in North Carolina illustrates this unfortunate reality.

The “preemption” laws now being proposed in Minnesota and around the nation are the product of the bill mill known as the American Legislative Exchange Council (“ALEC”). As has been previously explained here, ALEC holds private meetings at luxury resorts for corporate agents and allied State legislators to draft pro-corporate “model” legislation. Once these corporate bills have been drafted behind closed doors, the corporate-sponsored State legislators return to their respective States to push for passage of the bills into law.

ALEC reportedly has over 1,000 of its “model” bills introduced in State legislatures every year, with approximately one in every five actually becoming law. ALEC’s arsenal of “model” bills attack many areas of employment law and civil rights, not just paid sick leave. ALEC’s bills seek among other things, to eliminate living-wage protections, prevailing-wage laws, and better minimum-wage standards.

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