City Rights in an Era of Preemption: New Report from National League of Cities

February 22, 2017 - (3 min read)

WASHINGTON — February 22, 2017 — Today, National League of Cities (NLC) in partnership with the state municipal leagues released a new report entitled, “City Rights in an Era of Preemption.” The report examines the prevalence of state preemption across the country in seven key policy areas: minimum wage, paid leave, anti-discrimination, home sharing, ride sharing, municipal broadband, and tax and expenditure limitations (TELs).

“Preemption efforts – where state law nullifies a municipal ordinance or authority – lead to a loss of local control and can have far-reaching economic and social impacts in our communities,” said NLC’s CEO and Executive Director Clarence E. Anthony. “Local leaders should be empowered to adapt policies to meet the needs of their residents, ensuring cities have the tools they need to build stronger economies, promote innovation and move the country forward.”

In recent years, the report finds that state legislatures have gotten more aggressive with preemption efforts. Preemption bills often concern politically divisive issues and rely on single party dominance to pass through state legislatures. As of the 2016 election cycle, Republicans have 25 government trifectas, meaning they control both legislative chambers and the governor’s office, while Democrats have trifectas in six states and control a larger portion of city halls.

States can preempt cities from legislating on issues either by statutory or constitutional law, and in some cases, court rulings.

The report finds:

  • 24 states preempt local minimum wage ordinances
  • 17 states preempt local paid leave ordinances
  • 3 states explicitly preempt local anti-discrimination ordinances
  • 37 states limit local authority to regulate ride sharing
  • 3 states limit local authority to regulate home sharing
  • 17 states preempt localities from establishing municipal broadband service
  • 42 states limit local fiscal authority through tax and expenditure limitations (TELs)

“Our research points to the complex, and sometimes tenuous, relationship between cities and state legislatures,” said NLC’s Senior Executive and Director of the Center for City Solutions and report co-author Brooks Rainwater. “People who live in cities want control over their own destinies and when states seek blanket policies that run counter to the values of its municipalities, local leaders do not stand down. We see many instances where state-level politicians work to usurp the will of people in cities both through preemption and Dillon’s Rule provisions. As a result, the work of city leaders and the mandate of the people is undermined.”

NLC recommends that cities facing preemption challenges should engage in active communication with their state legislatures, choose preemption battles wisely, and address the preemption narrative directly.

Find the full report at:

Preemption experts and local officials will host a call on Wednesday, February 22, to discuss report findings and answer questions from members of the media.

WHAT: Press call on “City Rights in an Era of Preemption”

WHEN: Wednesday, February 22, 1 – 2 p.m. ET

WHERE: (888) 645-4404 WEB PORTAL:


  • Introductory Remarks: Clarence Anthony, CEO and executive director of NLC
  • Matt Zone, president of NLC and Cleveland councilmember
  • Brooks Rainwater, director of the Center for City Solutions at NLC & report co-author
  • Kim Winn, executive director of Virginia Municipal League

RSVP: For questions and to confirm call attendance, please contact Courtney Bernard at 202-626-3133 or


The National League of Cities (NLC) is dedicated to helping city leaders build better communities. NLC is a resource and advocate for 19,000 cities, towns and villages, representing more than 218 million Americans.