Mayors vow “all-out campaign to preserve our democracy” by bringing visibility to “racist and punitive legislation directed at our cities”
Columbus, Ohio — In response to the growing trend by state legislatures to punish municipalities through a plethora of state preemption laws, the U.S. Conference of Mayors (UCSM) today passed a resolution condemning laws that infringe on the rights of cities and jeopardize public safety, vowing to fight back against these politically motivated attacks.
The resolution was introduced at the 91st Annual Meeting of the USCM by Kansas City (MO) Mayor Quinton Lucas, who chairs the USCM Committee on Criminal and Social Justice. Noting that these state preemption efforts are often “directed squarely at the diverse population of our cities,” the resolution which was passed today by the full Conference states, “the United States Conference of Mayors pledges to undertake an all-out campaign to preserve our democracy by bringing visibility to the state preemption of local laws that cities have enacted to keep their residents safe and make sure their rights are protected and to develop and implement a strategy to reverse the current trend in state enactment of racist and punitive legislation directed at our cities and our residents.”
“We as mayors are saying: as the elected officials closest to our people, trust us,” said Mayor Lucas at the Annual Meeting opening press conference. “Trust us, and more importantly, trust our communities. Trust our communities to have the solutions and the tools to build safer cities. Trust our communities and listen to our pain when there is a gun massacre, as there are in too many of our cities. …Let mayors do what they’re supposed to do. Let mayors stand up for their cities.”
Preemption measures are a growing concern for cities across the country, as an increasing number of state legislatures in recent years have preempted policies related to reducing gun violence, protecting the rights of LGBTQ+ residents, increasing voting access, and keeping residents safe. During the Annual Meeting, the USCM released a summary of preemption activity compiled by Richard Briffault of Columbia University. In Tennessee, for example, state legislation was recently enacted prohibiting local governments from providing insurance that covers abortion to municipal employees. In Texas, bills were recently passed and signed into law limiting citizens’ capacity to vote by restricting mail-in voting and in-person voter assistance for people with disabilities. And in Mississippi, recently approved legislation expanded state control over local policing and criminal court matters in Jackson – a city with the highest percentage of Black residents of any major U.S. city.
The full text of the resolution can be found here and below:
Preserving Our Democracy and Assuring the Ability of Cities to Keep Their Residents Safe and Make Sure Their Rights are Protected
WHEREAS, in recent years many state legislatures have taken actions that preempt local laws and have reduced the ability of cities to keep their residents safe and make sure their rights are protected; and
WHEREAS, many these actions are directed squarely at the diverse population of our cities; and
WHEREAS, many of these actions constitute an outright attack on our democracy; and
WHEREAS, these actions have included preempting local gun safety ordinances, local actions aimed at protecting the rights of LGBTQ+ residents, local voting policies and practices aimed at making it easier to vote and increasing both voter registration and voter turnout, and other local ordinances or actions aimed at keeping residents safe and protecting their rights; and
WHEREAS, in 2019, 45 states prohibited local governments from passing an ordinance related to certain aspects of firearms regulation, and the six most common areas of firearm regulation explicitly preempted were possession, transfer, sale, ammunition, ownership, and transportation; and 20 states imposed penalties on local government for regulating firearms and the most common penalty, civil liability, is present in 18 states and this punitive preemption targets local elected officials in an effort to deter action and deny them the full weight of their offices as representatives of their communities; and
WHEREAS, the Missouri legislature is undertaking an effort to take over the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department, which city leaders believe would insert more politics into public safety and make the City less safe, less accountable, and less able to serve and protect the City’s highest priority, its residents; and
WHEREAS, the Mississippi legislature recently enacted legislation expanding state control over local policing and local criminal court matters in Jackson, the state’s largest city which happens to have, the highest percentage of Black residents of any major U.S. city; and
WHEREAS, in response to an unprecedented number of voters (particularly Black and brown voters) participating in the 2020 election, Georgia enacted legislation that reduced the number of ballot boxes in communities of color, limited voting hours, added additional voter ID requirements, and made it illegal to provide those waiting in line with food or water, among other measures; and
WHEREAS, in 2021, the Texas legislature passed and the Governor signed bills limiting citizens’ capacity to vote and expanding protection for partisan “poll watchers,” volunteers deployed by major parties to observe the voting and vote counting processes, which many people consider the presence of poll watchers to be a form of voter intimidation, and also limiting mail-in voting and early voting hours and restricted in-person voter assistance for people with disabilities or those requiring support in the voting process; and
WHEREAS, since 2018, LGBTQ+ people have been under a coordinated attack in state legislatures across the country and these legislative assaults have rapidly increased each year, with more than 500 anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced so far this year, many of which target transgender youth, including dozens of dangerous and discriminatory bills threatening to prevent them from receiving life-saving health care, and many of those bills involve preemption by banning or threatening punitive action against schools and local governments that otherwise want to protect LGBTQ+ people from discrimination; and
WHEREAS, since the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which repealed Roe v. Wade, at least 14 states have already implemented near-total abortion bans, leaving one in three American women without access to safe, legal abortion care and state legislatures across the country have introduced hundreds of bills to include medically unnecessary restrictions that limit access to abortion care; and
WHEREAS, Tennessee has taken aim directly at local governments in this area by enacting legislation that prohibits them from providing insurance to municipal employees that covers abortion, or from creating funding sources for people to travel to another state to obtain a legal abortion,
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that The United States Conference of Mayors registers its strong opposition to all efforts by state governments to restrict the ability of cities to keep their residents safe and make sure their rights are protected; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that The United States Conference of Mayors considers these state efforts as an attack on our democracy, on home rule, and on the rights of city residents and their elected representatives to manage the affairs and assets of their municipality; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that The United States Conference of Mayors pledges to undertake an all-out campaign to preserve our democracy by bringing visibility to the state preemption of local laws that cities have enacted to keep their residents safe and make sure their rights are protected and to develop and implement a strategy to reverse the current trend in state enactment of racist and punitive legislation directed at our cities and our residents.