Texas Gov.-elect Greg Abbott speaks to member of the media following a meeting with President Barack Obama and newly elected governors at the White House on Dec. 5, 2014.
Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

When the GOP abandons its commitment to local control

About a year ago, a variety of states and cities had grown tired of waiting for Congress to raise the federal minimum wage, so they began doing it on their own. Oklahoma’s Republican-run state government took action of its own, but largely in reverse.
 
According to a state law signed by Gov. Mary Fallin (R), communities that want to raise their local minimum wage or create their own paid-sick-leave policies are prohibited from doing so. The state would simply not allow for local experimentation with progressive ideas.
 
As we talked about at the time, contemporary conservatism generally celebrates “local control” as an valuable governing principle. 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.
 
This happens quite a bit. Take this Reuters report out of Texas this week.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Monday signed a bill into law that prohibits cities and towns from banning an oil drilling practice known as hydraulic fracking, giving the state sole authority over oil and gas regulation.
 
Lawmakers in Texas, a state that is home to the two of the most productive U.S. shale oil fields, have been under pressure to halt an anti-fracking movement since November, when voters in the town of Denton voted to ban the oil and gas extraction technique.
Now, that political “pressure” is no more. Even if a city in Texas wants to protect itself from potential fracking hazards, the state government simply won’t allow it.
 
It’s amazing how often this happens nationwide, not just on fracking and the minimum wage, but with almost anything state Republicans consider offensive at the local level. This Associated Press report from Monday was striking:
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 Missouri, if a local government wants to outlaw plastic bags at grocery stores, the state government will no longer allow that, either.
 
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.
 

Fracking and Texas

When the GOP abandons its commitment to local control