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We've reported on the growing tension between localities and states several times in the past. States have continued their efforts to preempt local employer mandates and other ordinances at the city and county levels. Before the 2017 legislative sessions, 22 states preempted local minimum wage ordinances, 15 states preempted paid leave ordinances, and 14 states preempted both minimum wage and leave ordinances. Additionally, seven states preempted localities from regulating employee work schedules, and 10 states preempted localities from mandating that employers provide various other employment benefits, like health insurance or retirement benefits.

Four States Have Enacted Preemption Laws in 2017

This year, 21 states have already introduced around 60 bills addressing employment-related preemption. These bills either expand a state's current preemption laws to cover additional mandates or establish new preemption laws. Four states — Arkansas, Iowa, South Carolina, and Tennessee — have already enacted legislation related to preemption this legislative session. Both Arkansas (AR SB 668) and Iowa (IA HF 295), which previously did not preempt localities from enacting employment ordinances, enacted laws this year to prohibit localities from increasing the minimum wage, requiring employers to provide employment leave, or mandating employment benefits or scheduling requirements. Additionally, the Iowa preemption law prohibits localities from adopting ordinances regulating bags and other containers used to carry consumer merchandise. The South Carolina legislature passed a law (SC SB 218) to expand the state’s current minimum wage preemption to add preemption for paid leave and employment benefits as well. Finally, Tennessee passed a law (TN SB 262) expanding local preemption in the state (which had already applied to wage, leave, and employee benefits) to prohibit local employee scheduling ordinances.

A Court Order Prompts Action on Missouri Preemption Law

Legislators in Missouri are also expected to pass legislation revising the state's 2015 preemption law after the Missouri Supreme Court ruled that St. Louis can increase its minimum wage to $11 per hour by 2018. First, the court ruled that a 1998 statute that preempted local minimum wage increases was unconstitutional because the bill broke the state constitution's single subject rule (i.e., the legislature can pass legislation only addressing one subject at a time). Second, the court found that the 2015 statute (MO HB 722) preempted only ordinances adopted after August 28, 2015. Because the St. Louis minimum wage ordinance was effective before that date, the court ruled it was allowed to proceed as scheduled. However, the final ruling did not directly address whether the 2015 statute itself, which preempts both local employer mandates as well as plastic bag bans, broke the single subject rule. As a result, legislators are working to pass a new preemption bill (MO HB 1194) before Kansas City residents vote on a minimum wage increase on August 8.