The following is a statement from Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project, in response to Missouri Gov. Nixon’s veto of a preemption law that would have withdrawn local authority for cities in Missouri:
“Democracy in Missouri was strengthened today by the simple refusal of Governor Jay Nixon to allow the legislature to run roughshod over localities acting in the interests of their citizens to raise wages locally. In vetoing a preemption bill that would have prevented cities and counties in the state from setting wage levels higher than state and federal wage floors, Governor Nixon recognized the appropriate balance to strike when it comes to wage regulation: First, we need a strong federal floor; then, states can and should enact higher standards, consistent with their economies; and finally, localities should have the power to raise wage levels even more, when local circumstances make such action appropriate. State legislatures should not impose their will on localities trying to improve living standards within their communities, or preempt local leaders’ judgment that more is needed.
“Local powers are vital to the fabric that undergirds the democratic process in states and in the nation. Yet, over the past several months, preemption bills have popped up across the country, and this is no coincidence. As state legislative chambers increasingly lean right, groups such as the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) have succeeded in securing legislation that benefits their corporate backers while hurting working people. ALEC’s 2015 legislative agenda focuses on blocking action on a range of issues, including the minimum wage and unionization, all to the detriment of local democracy.
“ALEC’s relentless attacks and seemingly bottomless resources have not succeeded in completely ending local democracy, however. Governor Nixon joins a growing number of governors who recognize that when partisan gridlock prevents statewide action to address wages and other issues of import to working families, preserving the power of local governments to accomplish what state legislatures fail to do is critical. Earlier this year, Governors Terry McAuliffe in Virginia and Steve Bullock in Montana also used their executive powers to reject bills that would have banned local governments from enacting legislation to increase wages and improve compensation at the local level.
“The National Employment Law Project commends Governor Nixon for his leadership in protecting local powers in Missouri to raise wages, improve the economic health of families and their communities, and protect democracy one locality at a time.”