NYT: Home rule under nationwide assault – Tampabay.com (blog)

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It’s not just Florida that saw cities and counties defend its powers of local government against an assertive Republican state Legislature.

As the New York Times’ Upshot points out in a story today, it’s also Arizona, Texas, Ohio, North Carolina and many other states controlled by Republicans. 

These states have banned local ordinances on minimum wage increases, “sanctuary cities”, paid sick days and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights, and even a ban on plastic bags.

These new pre-emption laws echo 19th-century “ripper bills,” legal scholars say, state laws that ripped control from cities over their finances, utilities, police forces and local charters. The backlash against them helped spur the movement for local control in the United States. Now home rule is under a “troubling nationwide assault,” warn municipal lawyers and law professors, including Mr. Davidson, in an amicus brief supporting another legal fight, in Cleveland.

There, Ohio passed a law blocking a longstanding requirement that city construction contracts hire some local workers. Cleveland, in other words, was trying to ensure that local projects created local jobs, alleviating local poverty.

Florida figures prominently in the story, with gubernatoiral candidate and Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillum and Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, making cameos.

Fine gets atttention for his HB 17, which prohibits local governments from adopting or imposing new regulations on businesses unless the regulation is expressed in general law. It died in committee, but Fine sounds as if the fight will go on.

“We’re the United States of America,” Fine is quoted by the Upshot. “We are not the United Towns of Florida. We’re not the United Counties of Florida.”

Gillum, along with other local officials, had to get pro bono legal help in a lawsuit filed by a gun-rights group that sought to remove an old Tallahassee ordinance that made it illegal to shoot guns in public parks. The ordinance was never enforced, but it was never repealed either, putting Gillum in legal jeopardy because of a state law that requires local officials to defend themselves without public money in cases involving the violation of Florida’s preemption on gun control. The case was thrown out, but that’s not the point, Gillum said.

“It’s intended to send a chilling effect,” Gillum said.

Read the story here.