In the News

Red State, Blue City, The Atlantic, March 2017 Issue
by David A. Graham

“Over the past few years, city governments and state legislatures have fought each other in a series of battles involving preemption, the principle that state law trumps local regulation, just as federal law supersedes state law. It hasn’t gone well for the city dwellers.

Close observers of these clashes expect them to proliferate in the years to come, with similar results. “We are about to see a shit storm of state and federal preemption orders, of a magnitude greater than anything in history,” says Mark Pertschuk of Grassroots Change, which tracks such laws through an initiative called Preemption Watch. By the group’s count, at least 36 states introduced laws preempting cities in 2016.”

Cities Need a National Movement Against Conservative Meddling, Slate, January 10, 2017
by Henry Grabar

“With its focus on political principles rather than issues, Defend Local is a new kind of coalition, said Mark Pertschuk, the director of the Bay Area nonprofit Grassroots Change, which monitors pre-emption laws. “It’s unique and very important, because in the ecosystem of advocacy groups it’s much easier to raise money for single issues,” he said. The focus on guns or environmental protection or workers’ rights prevents local citizens from recognizing just how similar their predicaments are.”

Trump, Congress Could Halt State Action on Climate, Climate Central, January 10, 2017
by John Upton

“There really is virtually no aspect of federal regulation of the natural environment or health that’s not at risk of preemption now,” said Mark Pertschuk, a lawyer and activist with the nonprofit Grassroots Change, which tracks state preemptions of local rules affecting gun safety, paid sick days, factory farming and other issues. “Federal laws almost always trump state and local laws.”

The Shackling of the American City, Slate, September 9, 2016
by Henry Grabar

“Pre-emption has become the most powerful statehouse tactic of our time.

In May 2011, Wisconsin’s Republican Gov. Scott Walker approved Senate Bill 23, which prohibited the state’s municipalities from enacting paid sick leave laws. From the outside, it might’ve appeared as if he was swinging a sledgehammer at a very tiny nail. While the bill applied to every city, town, village, and county in Wisconsin, only one jurisdiction in the state had a paid sick leave law on the books: Milwaukee…

2014 was the worst year in history in terms of pre-emption across issues. 2015 was much worse,” said Mark Pertschuk, the director of the Oakland, California–based nonprofit Grassroots Change and the founder of Preemption Watch, a group that agitates against the usurping of local control. “What’s made these past three years so radically different is the strategy of pre-empting everything that cities and counties could do.”

Blue Cities, Red States, The American Prospect, August 22, 2016
by Abby Rapoport

“PREEMPTION” LAWS ARE not new, nor are they necessarily about undoing local legislation. But with some notable exceptions, past preemption laws have generally enforced what can be called “minimum preemption”: They force localities to do something where they might otherwise have done little or nothing…

Most current preemption laws, by contrast, are what one might call “maximum preemption.” These laws aren’t about setting minimums; instead, they prohibit local regulation… Many who oppose these measures blame their proliferation on the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council, known as ALEC, which has drafted “model” preemption bills for state lawmakers to use. “Pretty much anything you can think of that matters to the American family is under assault by local preemption,” says Mark Pertschuk, the director of Grassroots Change, which fights preemption laws around the country.”

What Happened in Denton: The War on Local Democracy, NBC News, August 2, 2016

“I think it is the time of greatest risk to local democracy that has probably ever existed,” Mark Pertschuk of Grassroots Change, which supports local democracy efforts around the country, told me in reference to the push for preemption. “I see it as a fundamental threat.”

Cities Clash With State Governments Over Social and Environmental PoliciesThe Wall Street Journal, July 11, 2016

“Lawmakers used pre-emption sparingly until the 1980s and 1990s, when the tobacco industry and gun lobby used state pre-emption laws to block local restrictions on smoking and weapons, said Mark Pertschuk, director of Preemption Watch, an Oakland, Calif., watchdog group largely funded by the health-focused Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. In 1998, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the upswing in pre-emption laws on tobacco in North Carolina and a half-dozen other states posed an obstacle to its public-health goals.”

Colorado Preemptions of Local Government: The Need for the Colorado Community Rights AmendmentThe Huffington Post, June 28, 2016

“The trend has escalated, said Mark Pertschuk, director of the watchdog group Preemption Watch: ‘2015 saw more efforts to undermine local control on more issues than any year in history,’ He noted ‘….just a few weeks into 2016 state legislative sessions [it became} clear that ending local authority will continue to be the go-to strategy for state legislators and their special interest allies, as a means of blocking earned sick days, minimum wage hikes, tobacco and fracking bans, pro-worker policies, or anti-discrimination laws.'”

Preemption’ laws either irony or hypocrisy, Canton Daily Ledger, April 28, 2016

“Agriculture, guns and knives, minimum wage increases and employee benefits … and a wide range of environmental protections were the most common targets of preemption,” said Mark Pertschuk of the Preemption Watch advocacy group. “But perhaps the newest trend was exemplified by bills that sought blanket preemption of ALL local authority over ANY topic already addressed at the state level, limiting local control and democratic processes across public health, safety and social justice.”

States are banning cities from raising the minimum wage, Buzzfeed, March 23, 2016

The state-level laws are part of a playbook long used by industry. Preemption strategy first took off in the 1990s with the help of tobacco and gun lobbyists, according to Mark Pertschuk, director of Grassroots Change, an anti-preemption group that focuses on public health measures.

State to locals: You can’t do that. Or that.Indystar, March 6, 2016

Grassroots Change has been tracking what it calls an “unprecedented national push” for state pre-emption of local regulations. So far this year, the group’s Preemption Watch project has counted 63 pre-emption bills in at least 27 states. Texas alone introduced dozens of bills in the past few years, running the gamut from fracking to plastic bags to anti-discrimination laws.

Why Minnesota legislators want to block local officials’ ability to increase the minimum wage, MinnPost, June 9, 2015

“It’s been a good year and a bad year,” said Mark Pertschuk, director of Preemption Watch in Oakland, a project of Grassroots Change that promotes local efforts to promote public health initiatives. “Where democracy is functioning is at the local level,” he said, but added that “it’s been particularly challenging as far as state preemption.”

The disenfranchisement of small-town America, Al Jazeera America, April 10, 2015

“Why would a freedom-loving, conservative Republican say, ‘Lets take away all local power?’ There’s no philosophical or ideological basis for that,” said Mark Pertschuk, the director of Grassroots Change, which fights against the pre-emption of public health laws. “It’s about the money.”

States Are Blocking Local Regulations, Often at Industry’s Behest, The New York Times, February 13, 2015

“This year, a combination of big money in state politics and a large number of first-time state legislators presents an opportunity for industries interested in getting favorable laws on the books, Mr. Pertschuk said. Increasingly, he said, disparate industries are banding together to back the same laws, through either the business-funded American Legislative Exchange Council, known as ALEC, or shared lobbyists. “There is going to be a feeding frenzy all year long in the state legislatures,” he said.”

States racing to regulate e-cigarettes, USA Today, February 7, 2015

“Five states have passed laws that forbid cities approving stricter ordinances, according to a January report in the medical journal Tobacco Control. That could stifle community action around e-cigarettes, says Mark Pertschuk, director of Grassroots Change, a network of public health movements. He notes that most clean-air laws began as local ordinances before gaining enough traction to be passed statewide.”

U.S. smoking warning made history, saved lives, USA Today, January 8, 2014

“Smoking rates briefly rose in some of the first few years after the Surgeon General report’s release, as the tobacco industry ramped up advertising to women and minorities, says Mark Pertschuk, a long-time anti-tobacco activist and director of the advocacy group Grassroots Change.”

Similar paths for tobacco, gun lobby?, USA Today, December 2, 2013

“Critics say the National Rifle Association, in its efforts to block gun-control laws it says are unconstitutional, has used many of the strategies pioneered by the tobacco lobby, at least until a national settlement with state attorneys general forced cigarette makers to change some of their ways. Those tactics include suppressing information, blocking research, targeting individual scientists and pushing for state laws that prohibit cities and counties from passing their own gun measures, says Mark Pertschuk, director of Grassroots Change, a national support network for public health movements.”