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A Lawyer’s Playbook to Fight State Preemption

How can blue cities fight back against red states? Here are four lines of defense.  
relates to A Lawyer’s Playbook to Fight State Preemption
Madison McVeigh/CityLab

On August 28, the minimum wage in St. Louis will decrease from $10 to $7.70, in defiance of the city’s wishes. Why? The Missouri state legislature banned local minimum wage increases.

Around the country, as liberal cities increasingly diverge from their red states, cities have passed progressive legislation on hot-button issues like fracking, gun control, LGBTQ protections, and environmental policy. With Republicans controlling 32 legislatures and 33 governorships, a lot of these efforts have stalled on the state and federal level: States have vigorously resisted progressive cities’ chutzpah, moving again and again to block local progressive legislation by preemption. Cities are usually at the losing end of these battles, as in St. Louis and the towns and cities of the 24 other states that have passed laws preempting localities from raising the minimum wage. Generally speaking, municipalities are creatures of the state and possess only the authority delegated to them by state statutes or constitutions. The hierarchy is clear in almost every case: When state and local law conflicts, state law wins.