On Oct. 14, 2017, the Arizona Daily Sun published a guest column penned by city council members from Flagstaff, Phoenix, Tempe and Tucson. The column criticized the state legislature for preempting actions taken by various city councils. The authors concluded that an “out-of-touch” legislature engages in preemption in order to subvert the will of the people and respond to the whims of lobbyists and special interest groups.
The reality of preemption is quite the opposite: The legislature is trying to protect the public from city councils, school boards or other local entities that have been captured by special interest groups. Radical groups know they have little chance of advancing their causes at the legislative level. There are simply too many steps in the process of passing a law and having it signed by the governor. But, city councils and other groups can meet and pass an ordinance before anybody in the public or business community even knows it is being considered.
Here are a few examples:
--Voters in the City of Flagstaff passed a “super minimum wage law” last year. The Flagstaff City Council contravened the will of the people and delayed the impact of that vote.
-- The Phoenix City Council delayed the construction contract at Sky Harbor Airport to give construction unions a chance to strongarm the general contractor on the project. The result was millions of dollars of work going to union firms that were not the low bidders. The delay caused the contractor to stop work and then restart at an additional cost to the city. The same tactic was employed on a school project in Phoenix…..with the same results!
--The City of Tempe has contemplated a mandatory training requirement for certain large projects. The training requirement would favor union contractors over non-union firms. In Arizona 95 percent of construction workers are NOT members of a union.
--The City of Tucson attempted to pass an ordinance barring contractors who might work on the border wall from doing projects for the City of Tucson, despite the fact that a firm’s workers might be Tucson residents.
One of the most egregious special interest groups are public employee unions. For years, they have padded their retirement systems on the backs of local taxpayers. The local collective bargaining agreements contain numerous clauses that raise the burden for local taxpayers. One example of this is “release time” for public employees. A public employee is released from their job duties and allowed to conduct union business while on the public’s payroll. This allows public employees to have union representation without having to pay dues that a similar private employee would have to pay. Any city council member who tries to stand up to their fleecing of the public is targeted for retribution.
At the local level, both elected officials and public employees face tremendous challenges. We have plenty of work to do in the fields of local transportation, public safety and education. If our local elected leaders would stick to those problems, perhaps they could worry less about being preempted by a properly suspicious state legislature.