States stepping in to deny excessive regulation by local governments

Increasingly over the last few years, state governments are passing laws that prevent local governments from over-regulating some businesses. Local bans on plastic bags, minimum wage laws that conflict with the state standard, and other legislation that makes local businesses uncompetitive have been targeted by state legislatures.

Associated Press:

In capitols across the country, businesses are increasingly using their clout to back laws prohibiting cities and counties from doing things that might affect their ability to make money.

In the past five years, roughly a dozen states have enacted laws barring local governments from requiring businesses to provide paid sick leave to employees. The number of states banning local minimum wages has grown to 15. And while oil-rich states such as Texas and Oklahoma are pursuing bills banning local restrictions on drilling, other states where agriculture is big business have been banning local limitations on the types of seeds sown for crops.

It seems no issue is too small for businesses to take to capitol halls.

Wisconsin has banned local bans on sugary drinks. Arizona and Florida have barred local governments from forbidding toys in fast-food meals. And Utah has barred cities from requiring bicyclists to be served in drive-thru lanes.

In each case, states have stepped in after city officials somewhere in the nation proposed local policies that business leaders didn't like. Businesses have warned lawmakers that a potential patchwork of local regulations could be bad for the economy.

"We need to give companies and businesses some predictability and some consistency in their operations so that they can grow," said Shaul, a freshman Republican representative from the St. Louis suburb of Imperial, whose anti-bag ban measure is pending before Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon.

Environmental activists in Columbia, who pushed for the ban on single-use plastic bags at grocery stores, were jolted by the state intervention.

"I was horrified, just really demoralized," when the legislation passed, said Sierra Club member Jan Dye. "They just want to remove local control."

Are these simply corrective measures by state government? Or are these state laws an intrusion into local control?

As with anything, I think we have to look at these state laws on a case by case basis. The notion that a city or town should be able to ban single use plastic bags might have merit if the locality has a landfill problem. But imposing paid sick leave or a higher minimum wage than the state allows could create far more problems than anticipated. Businesses might flee a jurisdiction that imposed higher costs on employers, thus harming the local economies. No doubt activists wouldn't be that upset. They don't care about the economy and don't understand business anyway. But intervention by the state legislature could be justified in these cases in order to regulate economic activity for all citizens in the state.

Local control over government is to be desired whenever possible. But there may be exceptions - few and carefully considered - where a state should be able to override mistakes made by local governments.

Increasingly over the last few years, state governments are passing laws that prevent local governments from over-regulating some businesses. Local bans on plastic bags, minimum wage laws that conflict with the state standard, and other legislation that makes local businesses uncompetitive have been targeted by state legislatures.

Associated Press:

In capitols across the country, businesses are increasingly using their clout to back laws prohibiting cities and counties from doing things that might affect their ability to make money.

In the past five years, roughly a dozen states have enacted laws barring local governments from requiring businesses to provide paid sick leave to employees. The number of states banning local minimum wages has grown to 15. And while oil-rich states such as Texas and Oklahoma are pursuing bills banning local restrictions on drilling, other states where agriculture is big business have been banning local limitations on the types of seeds sown for crops.

It seems no issue is too small for businesses to take to capitol halls.

Wisconsin has banned local bans on sugary drinks. Arizona and Florida have barred local governments from forbidding toys in fast-food meals. And Utah has barred cities from requiring bicyclists to be served in drive-thru lanes.

In each case, states have stepped in after city officials somewhere in the nation proposed local policies that business leaders didn't like. Businesses have warned lawmakers that a potential patchwork of local regulations could be bad for the economy.

"We need to give companies and businesses some predictability and some consistency in their operations so that they can grow," said Shaul, a freshman Republican representative from the St. Louis suburb of Imperial, whose anti-bag ban measure is pending before Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon.

Environmental activists in Columbia, who pushed for the ban on single-use plastic bags at grocery stores, were jolted by the state intervention.

"I was horrified, just really demoralized," when the legislation passed, said Sierra Club member Jan Dye. "They just want to remove local control."

Are these simply corrective measures by state government? Or are these state laws an intrusion into local control?

As with anything, I think we have to look at these state laws on a case by case basis. The notion that a city or town should be able to ban single use plastic bags might have merit if the locality has a landfill problem. But imposing paid sick leave or a higher minimum wage than the state allows could create far more problems than anticipated. Businesses might flee a jurisdiction that imposed higher costs on employers, thus harming the local economies. No doubt activists wouldn't be that upset. They don't care about the economy and don't understand business anyway. But intervention by the state legislature could be justified in these cases in order to regulate economic activity for all citizens in the state.

Local control over government is to be desired whenever possible. But there may be exceptions - few and carefully considered - where a state should be able to override mistakes made by local governments.