Preemption makes another appearance at the Senate

A bill heard in the Committee on Local Government this week would strip local governments of their power to pass progressive labor benefit policies. While the proposal, known as ‘preemption’, created quite a bit of controversy last biennium, the bill has returned this session; once again, it has received a mixed welcome.

The proposal is backed by business groups, in reaction to the recently established ordinances in Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Duluth that would require qualifying workers to have access to benefits such as paid leave and, for St. Paul and Minneapolis, a higher minimum wage. Proponents of the bill argue that allowing local governments to set their own labor compensation policies has resulted in a ‘patchwork’ of labor standards across the state, making it difficult to do business.

Labor, social justice, and local government organizations testified in opposition to the bill, arguing that locally elected officials are the best-equipped to make decisions for their constituents; in addition, they argue it is immoral to prevent local governments from enacting policies to provide benefits for working families who do not otherwise have access to them. A recent Minnesota Supreme Court decision upheld the ordinances currently in place, citing that the Minnesota Fair Labor Standards Act establishes the floor for wages but does not prevent local governments from enacting policies above that floor.

After a lengthy period of testimony from those on both sides of the issue, the bill passed along party lines and will be heard next in the Jobs Committee. (SF 2321)