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Hidden Power Grab Stops Communities From Deciding Their Own Futures

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In his 1996 State of the Union Address Democratic President Bill Clinton famously declared, "the era of big government is over." And during his tenure he did everything he could to make that true-deregulating the telecommunications and the financial industries; enacting a free trade agreement severely restricting the authority of the federal government to protect domestic jobs and businesses; and abandoning the 75-year old federal commitment to the poor.

Seventeen years later I fully expect a Republican Governor or two to declare in their state of the state address, "the era of small government is over". Because again and again, Republican governors and legislatures are preempting and abolishing the authority of communities to protect the health and welfare of their communities.

*Earlier this year Wisconsin passed a law eliminating the authority of cities villages and counties to require public employees to live inside city limits, which also voids any existing requirements.

*A few weeks ago Kansas passed a law prohibiting cities, counties, and local government units from requiring private firms contracting with these governments to provide higher compensation than the state minimum wages or require other benefits and leave policies.

*The Florida House recently voted to preempt local governments from enacting "living wage" laws and "sick time" ordinances. If signed into law, the bill also overrules counties like Miami-Dade and Broward that have "living wage" ordinances that require companies that contract with the county to pay wages higher than the federal minimum wage, and sometimes provide certain benefits.

According to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, 19 states severely restrict or outright abolish the right of local governments to build their telecommunications networks. Cities began building their own networks after years of begging private phone and cable companies to upgrade their inadequate infrastructure, moderate their continual price increases and improve their customer service. When cities proved to be serious and successful competitors, telecommunications firm, rather than responding to the competition, went to state legislatures to abolish it. Last year North Carolina became the latest state to join the ranks of those who refuse to allow communities to make their own decisions about their own affairs.


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