Birmingham, Alabama, raised the city's minimum wage to $10.10 an hour on Tuesday. Two days later, the state took it away. Alabama passed a bill Thursday, largely along party lines, that bars cities and counties from raising the minimum wage or requiring employers to provide leave or other benefits. Because the law applies retroactively, it wipes out Birmingham's raise. Republican legislative leaders fast-tracked the bill in order to pass it before Birmingham's raise was set to take effect March 1. The GOP enjoys super-majorities in both houses. Within an hour or so of the bill's passage, Gov. Robert Bentley (R) announced he had signed it.
It's been nearly two years since Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin (R) announced that her state would not only ignore calls for a higher minimum wage, but also that the state law would block any effort by local Oklahoma communities to raise wages at the municipal level. In other words, if a city in Oklahoma wanted a higher minimum, the state would effectively declare, "Too bad."
Last year, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) made the same move, prohibiting local control over minimum-wage increases. And last week, MSNBC's Zack Roth reported on the identical circumstances playing out the same way in Alabama.
It's amazing how quickly Republican policymakers can move when they feel strongly about an issue. In this case, their zeal applied to blocking a city that wanted to raise its own minimum wage.
The L.A. Times reported that there are now 17 states that prohibit their own cities from raising a local minimum wage -- because if there's one thing the right believes in as a bedrock principle of their entire ideology, it's the importance of local control, except when Republicans decide they actually believe the exact opposite.
As we discussed the last time this came up, contemporary conservatism generally celebrates the idea that 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.
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.