In Oklahoma last year, state officials saw the national clamoring for an increase to the minimum wage, and they took decisive action. It was not, however, the kind of action workers have been waiting for.
In April 2014, Gov. Mary Fallin (R) announced that Oklahoma not only wouldn’t raise the state’s minimum wage, but going forward, the state would also block any effort by local Oklahoma communities to raise wages at the municipal level.
As the Detroit News reported, Michigan’s Republican-led state government adopted a very similar law yesterday.
Municipalities in Michigan will be prohibited from setting local minimum wages above the state rate and imposing new requirements on employers for sick time and other fringe benefits under a bill Gov. Rick Snyder signed into law Tuesday.House Bill 4052 bans future municipal ordinances that regulate the hours, compensation and terms of private sector employment, but it does not impact existing ordinances, Snyder spokeswoman Sara Wurfel said.
Originally, GOP legislators wanted the legislation to apply retroactively, scrapping existing local laws that go beyond state minimums, but the Republican governor agreed that would be excessive.
How gracious of him.
Snyder said he signed the legislation into law in order to avoid a “patchwork” of laws statewide, which would be bad because, well, just because.
The broader point, however, is that the right sees local control as an important principle, except when it doesn’t.
As we talked about a few months ago, contemporary conservatism generally celebrates “local control” as the best of all governing principles. For the right, the government that’s closest to the people – literally, geographically – is best able to respond to the public’s needs.
But when communities consider progressive measures Republicans don’t like, those principles are quickly thrown out the window. Sometimes, GOP policymakers declare, states much intervene and snuff local control out.
The minimum-wage measures in Michigan and Oklahoma are classic examples, but the list is much longer. Texas, for example, won’t let local communities ban fracking, even if they want to. What’s more, this AP report from April continues to stand out.
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.
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.