• Legislators in Annapolis will again consider whether to raise the state’s minimum wage to $15 an hour in the 2019 legislative session.
  • Maryland’s local legislators should consider that the state minimum wage bill brings with it potentially significant consequences for the future of local authority and local democracy in the state.
  • State legislators will likely weigh whether to revoke counties’ and cities’ long-standing power to enact a local minimum wage.
  • Any effort to curb local power in Maryland should be seen as part of a broader affront to home rule and local democracy.
  • Nationwide, local governments have seen a rapid rise in preemption laws over an expanding range of issues. Together, these laws have begun to erode home rule in significant ways.[i]
  • State preemption laws have also taken on a newly extreme and punitive approach that, in some cases, even impose personal liability on local legislators or threaten the revocation of state funding for local governments.[ii]
  • According to the watchdog group Preemption Watch, “2015 saw more efforts to undermine local control on more issues than any year in history.”[iii]
  • In Maryland, local home rule has allowed counties and cities to adopt a wide range of local policies addressing things like consumer protection,[iv] landlord–tenant protection,[v] local business licensing,[vi] food safety,[vii] taxicabs,[viii] air pollution,[ix] smoking,[x] and discrimination.[xi]
  • Both Montgomery County and Prince George’s County have adopted a local minimum wage, with Montgomery County most recently adopting a $15 minimum wage in 2017.[xii]
  • Separate from a local official’s or local government’s position on whether to raise the minimum wage, Maryland’s local officials should be prepared to defend their long-standing home rule powers and tradition of innovative and responsive local democracy.
  • The risks of not defending local authority in the current environment are arguably higher than ever before.

Endnotes

[i] See National Employment Law Project, “The Fight for $15 in Maryland and The Future of Local Democracy (Aug. 2018).

[ii] Id.

[iii] Brendan Fischer, The Center for Media and Democracy’s PR Watch, Corporate Interests Take Aim at Local Democracy (Feb. 3, 2016) (internal quotations omitted), https://www.prwatch.org/news/2016/02/13029/2016-ALEC-local-control.

[iv] See, e.g., Anne Arundel County Code, art. 10, tit. 8 (Consumer Protection); Baltimore County Code, art. 13, tit. 10 (Miscellaneous Provisions and Consumer Protection); Montgomery County Code, ch. 11 (Consumer Protection).

[v] See, e.g., Anne Arundel County Code, art. 10, tit. 9 (Landlord and Tenant Rights); Calvert County Code, ch. 75 (Minimum Livability Code); Carroll County Code, tit. XVII, ch. 171 (Livability Code); Charles County Code, ch. 81 (Minimum Livability Code); Talbot County Code, ch. 88 (Minimum Livability Code); Montgomery County Code, ch. 29 (Landlord-Tenant Relations).

[vi] See, e.g., Anne Arundel County Code, art. 11 (Licenses); Baltimore County Code, art. 21 (Permits, Licenses, and Business Regulation); Carroll County Code, tit. XI, ch. 110 (Business Licensing); tit. 6 (Licenses); Harford County Code, ch. 157 (Licenses and Permits); Montgomery County Code, ch. 30 (Licensing and Regulations Generally); Prince George’s County Code, subtit. 5 (Businesses and Licenses).

[vii] See, e.g., Anne Arundel County Code, art. 11, tit. 6 (Food Service Facilities); Baltimore County Code, art. 21, tit. 8 (Food Trucks); Prince George’s County Code, subtit. 12, div. 2 (Food Service Facilities).

[viii] See, e.g., Anne Arundel County Code, art. 11, tit. 15 (Taxicabs); Baltimore County Code, art. 21, tit. 17 (Vehicles for Hire); Wicomico County Code, ch. 205 (Taxicabs); Harford County Code, ch. 232 (Taxicabs); Talbot County Code, ch. 174 (Taxicabs); Montgomery County Code, ch. 53 (Taxicabs); Prince George’s County Code, subtit. 20 (Taxicabs and Limousines).

[ix] See, e.g., Baltimore County, art. 13, tit. 2 (Air Pollution); Harford County Code, ch. 109, § 109-12 (Air Quality Control); Prince George’s County Code, subtit. 19, div. 1 (Air Pollution).

[x] See, e.g., Baltimore County Code, art. 13, tit. 8 (Smoking in Public Places); Harford County Code, ch. 149, art. II (Smoking and Sale of Tobacco Products in County Buildings); Talbot County Code, ch. 159 (Smoking and Tobacco Products); Montgomery County Code, ch. 24, art. II (Smoking, Tobacco, and Nicotine).

[xi] See, e.g., Baltimore County Code, art. 29, tit. 2 (Human Relations, Prohibited Practices); Harford County Code, ch. 95 (Discriminatory Practices); Montgomery County Code, ch. 27, art. I (Commission on Human Rights).

[xii] Montgomery County Code, ch. 27, art. XI; Prince George’s County Code, subtit. 13A, div. 2.

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