April 11, 2005

Should the state block the city from having its own minimum wage?

Mayor Dave says no. The Wisconsin Senate is voting tomorrow on the subject. Here's the argument:
I would urge you to reject any proposal that would forever trade away the right of local units of government to set the minimum wage locally, in exchange for a one-time concession on a statewide minimum wage increase. It is only because of the proliferation of local minimum wages that the legislative majority is even considering a statewide increase. It would be extremely short-sighted to forever surrender that leverage, in exchange for a one-time increase in the state minimum wage.
These days, there is a lot of attention to federalism -- the division of power between the federal government and the states -- but we do not often think about the division of power between the state government and the cities. We don't even have a word for that relationship, do we?

The people of Madison have their own distinctive ideas -- which I frequently disagree with -- but I want to support experimentation and decentralization. Maybe it's a mistake, but it's us. On the other hand, a minority within the city may be a majority within the state. If Madison behaves foolishly -- perhaps because of the high concentration of University folk -- shouldn't the state government respond to the hardworking business owners who can't get what they want from the city? The Mayor's argument reveals that he's not just concerned with the localized expression of values; he's trying to use city government to leverage a movement at the state level.

7 comments:

Too Many Jims said...

Ann Althouse writes:

These days, there is a lot of attention to federalism -- the division of power between the federal government and the states -- but we do not often think about the division of power between the state government and the cities. We don't even have a word for that relationship, do we?

I think you are correct that there is no one succinct term that captures the state-municipal relationship the way "federalism" captures the federal-state relationship. However, most states (including Wisconsin) are governed by the "Dillon Rule" which means that power of municipalities is limited to those powers 'expressly granted, necessarily or fairly implied, or absolutely indispencible' to the local governments. Many of the States where Dillon's Rule is in place, however, have given local governments power over local affairs subject to state laws of "statewide concern". In most jurisidictions the interpretation of "statewide concern" (or similar language) results in courts reverting back to the Dillon's Rule presumption in favor of statewide legislation. (See http://www.legis.state.wi.us/lrb/pubs/consthi/04consthiIV3.htm for application in Wisconsin.)

John Jenkins said...

The difference is the relationship. The states were (are?) nominally sovereign entities that joined together and in so doing ceded some powers to the federal government. The cities are wholly creations of the states, to do with as they please. There's no word for it because the relationship is governed solely by tradition and legislative fiat.

Ann Althouse said...

John: note that my questions uses the word "should" and talks about what is good and what works well, not what is constitutionally required or the nature of sovereignty. I'm not talking about whether the state may do this to the city, but whether it's a good idea. In that sense the two relationships raise parallel concerns about decentralization.

Jack said...

The term used in the EU is " subsidiarity" which one expert has recently defined as "decisions must be taken nearest to those they concern".

Of course, the entire exercise in the EU is to invert subsidiarity, and invest the unelected bureaucrats with more and more authority.

Nonetheless, subsidiarity is a useful term for the proposition that decisions should be made at the lowest possible level.

Jack

Jack said...
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Jack said...
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Ann Althouse said...

Jack makes a good point. (And my deletions of two of his posts were for accidentally triple posting.) But I'd say "subsidiarity" says both too little and too much.

It says too little, compared to federalism, because it's a more general word, like decentralization and devolution, that doesn't specify the particular entities involved in the relationship. It says too much because it sides more strongly with decentralization than the word "federalism," which is a generic reference to the state-federal balance of power that doesn't include a principle for resolving questions about what the balance should be.

Also, I'm thinking the kind of people interested in decentralization are not the sort who like importing European concepts into American law.