Preemption is a legal doctrine that allows a higher level of government to limit, or prevent, the regulatory authority of a lower level of government. As a legislative tool, preemption is neither inherently good nor bad, but the misuse and abuse of preemption can be especially harmful when it limits the ability of localities to respond to the needs of their residents.

The past year and half have underscored the critical nature of local leadership and policy in advancing public health. It has also highlighted the complex challenges facing communities when local authority is stripped. This brief details the pre-pandemic preemption landscape.