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Preemption, explained: How Pennsylvania’s biggest city and the Legislature grapple over power

July 26, 2019

Pennsylvania Capital-Star,

Sarah Anne Hughes,

July 26, 2019-

Pennsylvania last raised its minimum wage on July 9, 2006, when Gov. Ed Rendell signed a bill that gradually increased the state’s base pay from $5.15 to $7.15 an hour. But the Legislature didn’t just give workers a $2 raise. Lawmakers also voted to preempt local municipalities from raising the minimum wage on their own. That language was added in the Senate Labor & Industry Committee, which at the time was chaired by Sen. Joe Scarnati, R-Jefferson, who’s now president pro tempore of the chamber.

That change really didn’t matter for most municipalities, which are blocked from regulating the “duties, responsibilities or requirements” of private businesses by state law. But it did affect preemption’s most popular target: Philadelphia. Preemption is something that comes up during a number of hot-button debates in Pennsylvania, from gun control to paid sick leave. Below, we dive into what it is, how it’s used, and more.

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