Preemption Media Coverage

Given that preemption can affect many policy issues, the way it is described in media coverage can vary. Journalists tend to use the word “preemption” in their stories, along with context to clarify what it means. Below are stories that focus on preemption from a range of media outlets, and after each link, there is content from the article where preemption is referenced and/or explained.


New York Times: California, of All Places, Has Banned Soda Taxes. How a New Industry Strategy Is Succeeding

  • The bill to pre-empt taxes is part of a wider industry effort to skip cities and go straight to the states.
  • Now the beverage industry has a new approach. Instead of fighting the ordinances city by city, it is turning to states, trying to pass laws preventing any local governments from taxing their products.
  • In California, the legislature passed a bill Thursday that will pre-empt any new local beverage or food taxes for 12 years.


Next City: Arizona Takes Soda Taxes Off the Table for Cities

  • Count another win for state preemption laws, and another loss for cities. Last week, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed a bill barring cities and counties statewide from enacting soda taxes.


Next City: When Red Statehouses Overrule Blue City Halls

  • It’s no secret that the gulf between the social values of cities and the state governments that control them has been widening a long time.
  • But with a Republican stranglehold over the federal government as well, the battle over preemption laws is heating up. A new report by the National League of Cities tallies which states have passed laws to restrict cities’ autonomy, and looks at how cities might fight back.
  • In recent years, movements to raise the minimum wage, provide paid sick leave, and guarantee protections for trans residents in particular have gained momentum in cities from Seattle to New York to Charlotte, North Carolina. But in the latter city, and many others, state preemption laws have prevented measures adopted by city councils and approved by voters from actually being implemented.


Washington Post: California, Home of the First Soda Tax, Agrees to Ban Them

  • The law represents a significant, if long-anticipated, shift among the nation’s soda makers, who have previously fought taxes, city by city, and expended millions of dollars in the process. Soda companies say the statewide bans more efficiently protect jobs and businesses that could be hurt by local tax laws.
  • But public-health advocates argue the state preemptions undermine the will and health of voters, pointing out that similar tactics have been embraced by tobacco companies and fast-food chains to fend off everything from cigarette taxes to menu labels.


Mother Jones: The Beverage Industry Has Figured Out a Legal End Run Around Soda Taxes

  • Voters in the state of Washington just said yes to a measure that will prevent cities there from enacting “soda taxes”—levies on sugar-sweetened beverages, like the one that passed in Seattle earlier this year.
  • Hampering local communities from enacting future soda taxes is more than just a public health concern, says Jennifer Pomeranz, an assistant professor of public health at New York University: Preemptive measures are a threat to democracy. “It’s a strategy that basically stops innovative policy-making in its tracks,” she said.
  • She says preemption stops communities from pursuing the options that best fit their needs, especially for urban and progressive populations that don’t have the same representation at the state level.
  • Pomeranz worries that on top of the threat to the democratic process, preemption roadblocks grassroots movements.


NPR: As Cities Raise Minimum Wages, Many States Are Rolling Them Back

  • State legislatures and city halls are battling over who gets to set the minimum wage, and increasingly, the states are winning.
  • After dozens of city and county governments voted to raise their local minimum wage ordinances in the last several years, states have been responding by passing laws requiring cities to abide by statewide minimums.
  • In allowing the preemption law to take effect, Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens cited a University of Washington study on the negative effects of Seattle’s minimum wage hike — a controversial study some experts dispute.
  • Rainwater says attorneys representing cities have brought suit in court, challenging some of these preemption laws, but they face an uphill battle.


Arizona Public Media: Senate Committee Votes to Block Local Soda Taxes

  • The bill in the Arizona Legislature wouldn’t ban such taxes in the state, but would block local governments from instituting them.
  • The Senate Finance Committee unanimously passed House Bill 2484 prohibiting local government from taxing specific foods. In practical terms, the bill is designed to keep local governments from passing soda taxes.
  • The grocery industry worries leaving that power with local governments will allow more than just soda taxes.


City & State: New PA Budget Strips Philadelphia of Power to Regulate Cigarette Sales

  • One small amendment slipped into the voluminous state fiscal code effectively stripped Philadelphia of its power to pass additional regulations on tobacco sales.
  • The new preemption clause added to the recently passed state fiscal code puts a stop to all that.
  • While it keeps existing restrictions, it precludes any further regulation – with the exception of how tobacco products are displayed.
  • Kirch described preemption language as a tactic that the tobacco lobby had frequently used around the country in the past, including in Pennsylvania, whose Clean Indoor Air Act is riddled with loopholes. Judges Hear Appeal Challenging Law that Blocked Birmingham Minimum Wage

  • An attorney for fast-food workers, black lawmakers and civil rights groups urged a three-judge federal appeals court today to reinstate their lawsuit challenging an Alabama law that blocked a minimum wage increase in Birmingham.
  • Black lawmakers said the same lawmakers who typically complain about federal interference in state affairs were butting into the business of cities.
  • In a brief filed with the appeals court, attorneys for the state said this about the law in question: “That law is reasonable, as demonstrated by empirical research. It was routine, as demonstrated by other Alabama preemption laws and some twenty-two similar laws enacted in other States. And it was timely, in light of one city’s decision to pass its own local minimum wage ordinance and rumblings that other cities would soon follow suit.”


CityLab: City vs. State: The Story So Far

  • From minimum wage to immigration, states have been taking aggressive action to stamp out local laws that they disagree with.
  • As cities flex their muscles in opposition to President Trump’s policies on everything from climate change to immigration and economic development, they face a serious obstacle: sweeping state efforts to preempt their authority.
  • These efforts date back well before Trump’s populist rise to power and span a whole host of critical issues—from states’ attempts to block local minimum wage increases to non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people to blanket bans on ordinances restricting fracking and guns.
  • A new article in the Journal of Federalism by Lori Riverstone-Newell of Illinois State University offers a thorough overview of the rise of state preemption laws, drawing on recent examples of ongoing fights to assert city sovereignty.