About a month ago, Birmingham, Alabama, decided it was time to give the city’s low-wage workers a raise. Local officials approved a minimum-wage increase, that would apply solely to Birmingham employers, to $10.10 an hour.
Just two days later, Alabama’s Republican governor and GOP-led legislature decided to undo what Birmingham had done. The state passed a law, which applied retroactively, prohibiting cities from raising their own minimum wages, even if they want to. In all, 17 Republican-led states have approved measures to block local control in this area.
As it turns out, this goes beyond the minimum wage. Bloomberg News reported the other day on an effort among local officials in Tempe, Arizona, to create paid sick-leave for the city’s workers. The initiative is facing some fairly intense resistance from officials in Phoenix.
[Tempe City Council member Lauren Kuby] and her colleagues heard that Arizona’s Republican-controlled state legislature was considering punishing cities that tried to set their own codes for worker benefits. Arizona’s House passed a bill on March 1 specifying that cities aren’t allowed to require private employers to provide paid sick leave or vacation.The state Senate has passed companion legislation that would cut state funds, used to pay for services like police and firefighting, for cities that try to supersede state laws. “They actually decided to dissolve our study group because they were so chilled by the state threat,” says Kuby.
The move to punish communities that try to approve their own progressive policies was initiated by Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R), who, after one year on the job, said he would change “the distribution of state-shared revenue,” cutting off communities who pursued employment laws he considers “ill-advised.”
Arizona Senate President Andy Biggs (R) told Bloomberg that arresting a municipality isn’t an option, but GOP state policymakers are nevertheless eager to “provide a deterrent effect.”
Responses like these to local control continue to amaze. As we talked about a month ago, contemporary conservatism is generally committed to the idea that the government that’s closest to the people – literally, geographically – is best able to respond to the public’s needs. As much as possible, officials should try to shift power and resources away to local authorities.
Except, that is, when communities consider progressive measures Republicans don’t like, at which point those principles are quickly thrown out the window.
So, let this be a lesson to everyone: when officials in Washington tell states what to do, it’s an outrageous abuse and clear evidence of government overreach. When states tell cities what to do, it’s protecting conservative principles.