How State Preemption Laws Affected Local Pandemic Responses

The COVID-19 pandemic has required state and local governments across the United States to be nimble and innovative to reduce public health risks and contain the pandemic’s economic fallout. But in many cities and counties, state preemption laws have limited local policymakers’ ability to act.

The past decade has seen a steep rise in state laws that prevent local governments from adopting policies that address economic, social, health, and environmental challenges. Some states adopted sweeping measures that limit local authority across a range of issues, while others preempted specific types of local laws, such as those related to minimum wages or municipal broadband. In response to the pandemic, some states have granted local governments more freedom, but others have doubled down on existing preemption laws or further restricted local action.

In this series of research briefs, we examine how state preemption of local policymaking authority affected COVID-19 crisis response and recovery efforts. We consider lessons from states that preserved or eased restrictions on local authority during the crisis, and we suggest ways to balance state and local policymaking authority to support an equitable recovery from the pandemic, as well as resilience through future crises.  

Briefs in this series

 

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