State Preemption Laws

In the United States, preemption is a legal doctrine that allows upper levels of government to restrict or even prevent a lower-level government from self-regulating. While it is most often thought of in the context of the federal government’s preemption of states, preemption is increasingly being used as a tool by states to limit cities, counties and other lower-level municipalities from legislating across a broad array of issues.

The extent of a state’s ability to preempt local government depends on a variety of factors. These include whether the state grants local governments the power to govern (known as Home Rule) or whether the state follows Dillon’s Rule, which only permits local governments to legislate where the state has expressly allowed. Additionally, the level of preemption involved and the discretion of the local government varies across domains (e.g., firearms or mandatory paid leave), even within the same state.

This map identifies and displays key features of state-level preemption laws in 50 states as of August 1, 2019. Specifically, the data displayed here examine state-level preemption in 12 domains: (1) ban-the-box, (2) firearms, (3) mandatory inclusionary zoning, (4) municipal broadband, (5) mandatory paid leave, (6) rent control, and six types of tax expenditure limitations (abbreviated TEL in the questions below) that restrict a local government’s ability to set, assess, or levy property taxes. These include (7) full disclosure tax requirements, (8) general revenue limits, (9) general expenditure limits, (10) property tax rate limits, (11) tax assessment limits, and (12) tax levy limits.

This project was supported by the National League of Cities and made possible by a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

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