Common examples involve blocking local minimum-wage and sick-leave ordinances, which are opposed by business groups, and bans on plastic grocery bags, which arouse retailers’ ire. Some states have prohibited cities from enacting firearm regulations....ADDED: The question in the title has a very simple answer: The state wins.
“People are furious. They’re confused,” Esther Manheimer, Asheville’s mayor, told me as her city battled to retain control of its water system. “We’re a very desirable city to live in. We’re on all the top-10 lists. How would anyone have an issue with the way Asheville is running its city, or the things that the people of Asheville value?”...
Some states delegate certain powers to cities, but states remain the higher authority, even if city dwellers don’t realize it. “Most people think, We have an election here, we elect a mayor and our city council, we organize our democracy—we should have a right to control our own city in our own way,” says Gerald Frug, a Harvard Law professor and an expert on local government. “You go to any place in America and ask, ‘Do you think this city can control its own destiny?’ ‘Of course it can!’ The popular conception of what cities do runs in direct conflict with the legal reality.”
ALSO: Though the law gives the state the upper hand, there should be a political argument that appeals to the conscience of conservatives in state government. If they believe in the values of federalism — that decentralization produces law that is well-tailored to local conditions and preferences — then they should respect the autonomy of cities. Some matters need to be governed by uniform state law, just as some things work better with uniform federal law, but when that uniformity is not a positive good, lean toward local democracy. I'm not saying this political argument will necessarily work, just that it has potential to singe their conscience.