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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: Locals need rights over state

A small but important lawsuit was filed earlier last month in the Maricopa County Superior Court that could have far-reaching implications if successful. The case, submitted by the Flagstaff Living Wage Coalition, argues that the Arizona State Legislature illegally passed a law prohibiting any cities, municipalities or counties from setting their own minimum wages.

Arizona’s minimum wage is currently $8.05 per hour. Flagstaff has one of the highest costs of living in the nation. The push to raise the wage in Northern Arizona ran up against the 2013 ban on wage increases, prompting the lawsuit.

While the case may seem complicated, it’s actually quite simple.

In 2006, Arizona voters passed Proposition 202, which says that cities “may by ordinance regulate minimum wages and benefits within its geographic boundaries” as long as they are not lower than the state’s minimum wage.

The Arizona Constitution directly prohibits the state Legislature from repealing or changing anything passed through a voter referendum without a supermajority, and even then, any adjustments to a law passed by voters can only be for the purpose of furthering the original intentions of the proposition.

This is not a difficult decision: The 2013 law passed by the state Legislature does not further the intentions of Prop 202. It goes directly against the will of the voters and was not passed with a supermajority.

Eva Putzova, Flagstaff City Councilmember and chair of the Flagstaff Living Wages Coalition, said the intention of the coalition is to clarify this situation for voters. Smaller communities want to set the minimum wages as they deem appropriate, and the law passed by the state Legislature only prevents what voters have already decided.

Unfortunately, this situation highlights a troubling and ironic trend in Republican state legislatures across the country.

As anyone who follows politics will know, however remotely, the Republican Party loves to describe itself as the party of small government. One can hardly go an hour of watching Fox News or listening to conservative radio stations without hearing some mention of illegal executive actions, President Barack Obama’s tyranny and other horror stories about the federal government’s ever-increasing size.

And while every national and local Republican legislator will endlessly discuss why smaller, localized governments are better, their actions seem to contradict this dogma.

Small towns across the U.S. have started adopting the more liberal and popular policies their states have refused to pass. Whether it’s raising minimum wages, instituting legal protections for the LGBTQ community, controlling firearms, protecting the environment or increasing access to women’s health care, small cities have passed or discussed passing popular policies — only to see their state legislators take those decisions away from them.

Arkansas prohibits cities from protecting LGBTQ people, Alabama does not require communities to implement paid sick leave, Pennsylvania disallows any government other than the state government from setting gun restrictions, and many other Republican-led states have identical or similar legislation.

When Republicans say they favor “small government,” it’s clear from their actions that they only favor governments that fit their conservative agenda. As soon as a “small government” starts passing laws Republicans disagree with, the bigger, state government suddenly knows best, and power is usurped from the local community. It’s hypocritical, undemocratic and repugnant.

The state and federal governments exist to set the general guidelines, or the bare minimums, for how people and businesses must act. If local communities want to expand government in their own lives through higher minimum wages, more gun control, more protected classes of citizens, bans on fracking or bans on plastic bags, then they have a right to do so.

Hopefully the courts, at least in Arizona, will restore power to the people.


Jacob Winkelman is a sophomore studying political science and English. Follow him on Twitter.

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