AuthorDavis-Cohen, Simon

Municipalities can do a lot. They can raise labor standards, strengthen environmental protections, pursue public-interest financing, protect tenants, fund climate justice initiatives, and shift public resources away from criminalization.

However, their legal authority to advance these causes is under attack--and has been for some time. Cities face retaliatory corporate lawsuits and systematic disinvestment, threats of capital flight, and state legislation that unilaterally rescinds and "preempts" their powers to take action. The following is a sampling of how some of these dynamics have played out in 2022.


The State of Florida is ramping up harassment against local officials who challenge its rightwing agenda. This year, a local prosecutor who said he would not prosecute people under the state's punitive abortion ban was suspended by Republican Governor Ron DeSantis for "usurping the province of the Florida Legislature."

The state's health department also suspended a public health official for sending an email to employees lamenting the low vaccination rates within a county health department, following a new state law that sanctions local officials or agencies that impose vaccine mandates.

DeSantis took control of the school board in the Democratic stronghold of Broward County by suspending board members. Additionally, the governor signed legislation this year to further advance the state's already extensive preemption of local communities. This includes SB 1808, which expands the state's attack on sanctuary cities, forcing local governments to cooperate with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement via the state, and SB 524, which prohibits local ranked choice voting.


Mississippi has had Jackson -- the state's majority-Black capital city--in a fiscal chokehold for years. The state has not only failed to allocate sufficient funds to Jackson, but has simultaneously limited the city's power to raise its own revenue--an extension of the state's regressive and racist tax policies that were instituted as African Americans gained suffrage in the early part of the twentieth century. The result: the Jackson water crisis, in which insufficient funding of water treatment infrastructure resulted in lack of potable water supply for months in 2022.

Jackson is also preempted by the state from helping the formerly incarcerated gain employment by "banning the box," raising its own minimum wage, responding to COVID-19, passing paid...

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