The Deepening Divide Between the South’s Blue Cities and Red States


But as in North Carolina, these progressive mayors and the city councils they lead face the challenge of operating under conservative legislatures that want to limit local power. For example, Mississippi has a preemption law barring local governments from setting minimum wages higher than the state’s $7.25 an hour, while last year the Alabama legislature blocked Birmingham’s attempt to raise the local hourly minimum wage to $10.10.

And it’s not a problem only in the South: Preemption efforts have become more common nationwide as cities in states with conservative legislatures have pushed for more progressive policies. In 2016, 36 states considered preemption legislation, up from 29 in 2015 and 23 in 2014.

As Facing South reported earlier this year, preemption laws don’t just negatively impact local sovereignty but marginalized communities as well. For example, Georgia recently passed a law barring local governments from passing “fair workweek” ordinances that require employers to compensate employees for changing their schedules without proper notice — policies aimed at improving conditions for low-wage workers, who are disproportionately people of color.

“The United States is coming to resemble two separate countries, one rural and one urban,” as Durham, North Carolina-based writer David A. Graham observed last year in The Atlantic. “Only one of them, at present, appears entitled to self-determination.”

The tensions between a state and its cities is increasing.  States want autonomy from the federal Government and yet want control over their cities.  Internet access, gun control – any number of issues.