“In State Legislatures, Old Rivalries Are Reheated by National Politics”

Michael Wines for the NYT:

Any definition of partisanship, of course, often reflects on which side of the aisle one sits. But urban-rural rivalries have a long history. A forthcoming study of the actions of six state legislatures from 1921 to 1961 — by Professors Thad Kousser and Gerald Gamm of the University of California, San Diego, and the University of Rochester, respectively — finds “clear evidence” that lawmakers deliberately underfunded the cities with more immigrant and nonwhite residents.

State laws that override city ordinances and policies have mushroomed over the last decade, especially in states where Republicans controlled both the governor’s office and the Legislature, a study by political scientists at Baylor and Butler universities concluded in 2020.

The dynamic can work the opposite way, too: In New Mexico, the Democrat-controlled State Legislature has drafted legislation to overturn local ordinances passed in conservative towns that restrict access to abortion clinics and abortion pills. The state attorney general on Monday sued New Mexico cities and counties to overturn the ordinances.

The new laws often take aim at issues where the parties are on different sides: Missouri’s lawmakers, for example, barred St. Louis from banning plastic grocery bags and stopped Kansas City from raising the minimum wage.

The 2020 study found that such laws were more common in states with a Republican government, a strong conservative bent and a higher share of Black residents.

“A hundred or even 50 years ago, Democrats in Atlanta may have wanted different things than the Democrats who were governing the state of Georgia, but they were in the same party,” said Professor Kousser, who earlier had tracked the urban-rural divide. “Now they both have different legislative interests and different political interests, too.”

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