by Norma Duffy.
Ms. Duffy is lifelong resident of Beaverhead County, a businesswoman, farmer, public advocate, and single mother who has no tolerance for bad politics-as-usual interfering with our future as Montanans. Follow her on Twitter @
(First in a series of Three)
Though I have my own dreadful, personal, business story about preemption law, which I will speak to in the next post – problems right here in our state of Montana…. I’d rather first, take this time, to explain to the average Montanan, what so called “Preemption laws” are.
Generally, every state in the union has the basics of home rule. Municipalities are the creations of the state and therefore they only have as much authority as the state gives them. The power given to a county or city, is through the constitution and administrative statutes enacted by the legislature. Whatever the state doesn’t want or need to define in statute, is generally given to the counties and cities to enforce or litigate as local ordinances, and believe me thats quite a bit of freedom to deal with.
Lately, at some “outsiders,” or corporate behest, Lobbyists have shown up in at the door posts of our state house and other state houses throughout the United States to bypass or close local city and county governments authority, with Preemption code snippets pushed by the American Legislative Exchange Council, otherwise known as the secretive corporate lobbying group called ALEC.
The ALEC snippets… kinda start out like this in any bill Corporates or Conservatives are sponsoring: “Prohibiting a local government with self governing powers from regulating…….”
The Idea is to ban Local protections statewide, so you can’t complain about a violation in your area ever, after a corporation or special interest gets their way!
An Example: Montana has preemptive law against you complaining about the use of certain pesticides in the state. Pesticides that might harm humans and animals. While local governments once had the ability to restrict the use of pesticides on all land within their jurisdictions, pressure from the chemical industry led Montana to pass legislation prohibiting municipalities from adopting local pesticide ordinances for private property that are stricter than state policy. This is the opposite of Federal law, which within reason, a state may make tougher statutes then present federal law statutes.
These ALEC code snippets are buried into whatever the special interest bill is, with preemption against local governance, pushed by lobbyists in state legislative sessions, and passing preemption in states across the country. Once passed, these snippet laws bar cities and counties from regulating for sound health policy such as access to health-care, ban complainants about polluted air, water and land. Give landlords more power against renters, Regulate against municipal broad-band systems while protecting corporate broad-band’s profit, Regulate against raising the minimum wage or sick leave and regulate against citizen land owners over corporate out of state lessees on adjacent state land who’s fracking might be destroying your underground water source, sickening your cattle, your family and possibly your community.
In the last two years eight republican dominated states, most recently Alabama and Oklahoma have prevented cities from enacting paid sick leave for workers.
There will be no more civil rights law in Arkansas municipalities to protect gays and lesbians from discrimination. And this year, these new anti gay, anti civil rights bills containing preemptive snippets were introduced in six more states including Michigan, Missouri and South Carolina.
At least five states have preempted local regulation of E cigarettes. And in New Mexico the restaurant industry supports a modest increase to the minimum wage only if the state stops cities from mandating higher minimums.
This year a combination of corporate big money in state politics and a large number of first time legislators presents a golden opportunity for “Out Of State” industries, and in some cases, Right winged conservatives interested in fringe doctrine — to get rid of regular constitutional rights for State citizens and put their favorable laws on the books…. Thus Increasingly tamping down democratically elected, local control here, and throughout the United States. Making your individual state rights smaller each year.
You all remember that crazy firearms bill this past session where Universities would have to permit firearms of students? The Alec code was in there too. To keep counties and cities who had Universities close by, from writing ordinances that would keep firearms for students out of reach. Stopping all local control from protecting their students and citizens? Thank goodness that bill didn’t pass.
As a Montanan and an American, it seems to me, hypocritical that the state wants the Federal government to give states more power, yet at the state level. legislators might be tempted to take power away from cities and counties for a campaign donation?
I believe less regulation is better, but there are times we have to pass ordinances for the health and safety of our Community and nature in our counties.
Our County commissioners and city council members make decisions locally everyday for our areas while the legislature is only in Helena once every two years to parse out the states problems. I realize when I drive through Montana how diverse we are. Why all of a sudden is that a problem for corporations and special interests?
What bothers me also, is corporations do not wish to do the legwork in states anymore, and talk to each county or city through town hall meetings, explaining to constituents why they wish to open shop in our areas. I believe it’s because they do not wish to answer questions asked by smart private citizens, or spell out the truth….. That some of their dealings in our counties could be dangerous to a citizen’s health and well-being, whether economically or physically, or environmentally.
I think it is high time we all watch a little closer what is put into pending bills before the legislature…. and possibly the legislators special interests speak too.