Santa Clara County, California and the City of San Francisco last year enacted restrictions on the inclusion of toys, prizes and incentives in certain children’s meals. In response, state legislatures in Arizona and Florida are considering legislation prohibiting local governments in their states from following suit.

In years past, local government initiatives addressing gun control, pesticide bans, living wage mandates and big box store restrictions have also inspired state pre-emption campaigns.

Likewise, many other issues being debated in state houses across the country today first appeared on local government agendas. For example:

  • Numerous local jurisdictions tackled illegal immigration enforcement before the controversial Arizona law captured the spotlight on the issue.
  • Several counties in New York State and the City of Chicago moved to ban Bisphenol-A in baby bottles and children’s beverage containers before the issue gained significant traction in state government.
  • In 2007 the City of San Francisco passed an ordinance to ban plastic shopping bags from all the grocery stores and pharmacies prompting similar proposals in cities, counties and states across the country.
  • Numerous building code and zoning requirements on issues ranging from energy efficiency and pollution control to safety and security started as ground-breaking local proposals.

And, in yet another variation, issues that have been rebuffed at the state level – such as Do Not Mail – have been re-packaged for local government adoption.

Across the U.S. there are 3,033 counties, 19,492 municipalities and 16,519 towns and townships. While it is easy to see the value in monitoring major cities like New York and Chicago and large counties such as Dade in Florida or Clark in Nevada, the collective impact of smaller jurisdictions, considering and adopting new policy proposals can be equally influential.

Activists know this and take advantage of industry inattention or inaction to establish beachheads for their policies at the local level.

Do you know what your town is doing?

I’d like to hear from others who are following local governments and identify issues that may be the next living wage, toy ban or Do Not Mail.

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