OPINION: From Plastic Bags to Puppies, Local Control is Under Assault

Arizona is just one of many states butting into local decisions. The question is why?

There’s a fight occurring across the nation that threatens the rights of local communities — and Arizona is right in the thick of it.

Arizonans elect local mayors, council members and supervisors to represent their cities and counties. They elect us to represent their values and make thoughtful choices that best represent the ideals of their residents.

But out-of-touch state lawmakers have something else in mind — substituting the voices of citizens with those of shadowy special interests and lobbyists.

It’s called preemption — the process of using state laws to strip away control from local municipalities. And legislative interference in local affairs is happening all over the country.

They can wipe out our laws with a pen

Texas legislators banned cities from protecting residents from discrimination. Missouri abolished higher wages. In Florida, lawmakers loosened gun laws in public parks and universities. More than 40 states have some form of state preemption laws on their books.

Our local laws safeguard our environment, promote affordable housing, help workers access sick leave and fair wages, and protect against gun violence. But state lawmakers and our governor can wipe those laws out with the stroke of a pen.

The question is, why?

Big-moneyed special interests know it’s easy to persuade a handful of state lawmakers in Phoenix to do their bidding. It’s certainly easier than convincing 91 cities and 15 counties to enact their chosen legislation.

Fortunately, Arizona’s local governments are fighting back.

Last year, Arizonans passed Proposition 206, ensuring a higher minimum wage and earned sick days for all employees — a measure championed by local cities. But instead of respecting the will of the people, state lawmakers tried to subvert it. Fortunately, our state Supreme Court ruled that fair wages and worker protections are, in fact, constitutional.

Just recently, the courts ruled that the Legislature’s efforts to prevent cities from weighing in on workforce issues such as earned sick days and other non-wage benefits were unconstitutional and violated Arizona’s Voter Protection Act.

Attacks continue on bags and puppies

But extremists in the Arizona Legislature are not backing down. They don’t like it when we win — when the people win.

They’ve attacked charter cities on minimum wage and sick leave, plastic bags, puppy mills, local zoning, recycling and more. Then they try to take away the very tools we use to uphold the values of the people; after the success of Prop. 206, they’ve made it more difficult for citizens to pass referenda and propose ballot initiatives.

Even worse, the Arizona Legislature voted themselves the ability in Senate Bill 1487 to strip away millions of your tax dollars from cities that dare to defy them — a reckless assault that can only make our communities less safe and should infuriate our citizens.

Yesterday, after a Gilbert legislator launched a complaint, the Arizona Attorney General has found that the City of Bisbee violated state law by not rescinding its bag ban, popular with residents and businesses alike. Bisbee must decide whether to fight the decision that local waste management is a statewide concern or give up a chunk of its General Fund as punishment.a

How you can stop this assault

Despite the outsized influence of well-funded special interests and industry groups, there’s one person to whom state lawmakers will still listen.

You, their constituent.

Call, email and visit your state senator and state representatives. Let them know you favor local solutions to local problems. Every community in Arizona is unique, something the one-size-fits-all approach of state preemption ignores.

From Phoenix to Flagstaff and Tempe to Tucson, local governments are working hard for you every day. That’s why we’ve joined with the national Campaign to Defend Local Solutions and cities across the nation to shed light on these attacks on local voices.

Together, we are defending your city, and your rights, as fundamental to democracy.

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