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Local preemption bill even worse than we first thought

As we reported [1]earlier this morning, the General Assembly is on the cusp of dramatically scaling back the authority of local governments to protect housing consumers and promote better wages, after a late night conference committee added pages of new—and highly controversial—local government restrictions to SB 279, an essentially noncontroversial bill originally written to update the state’s occupational licensing requirements for teaching sex education. And after a closer look, the bill looks even worse than originally reported.

Many of the new restrictions are highly charged, including provisions that could allow local landlords to deny housing to veterans and seniors, permit local businesses to discriminate against their customers based on their sexual orientation, and prohibit city and county governments from passing living wage and paid sick ordinances to boost their local economies. One shocking provision may even stop local governments from requiring landlords to provide heating, air, and ventilation in their properties.

For a full list of the problematic provisions contained in the bill, follow us below the fold.


SB 279 creates impediments to fair housing. (41A-2)

SB 279 would prohibit local governments from requiring housing with heat, for example, and limit their ability to set other housing codes to ensure housing is fit for human habitation. (42-14.5)

SB 279 eliminates the ability of local governments to consider how local development can help all residents. (42-14.5)


SB 279 sanctions discrimination by private businesses (153A-121).

SB 279 could limit the ability of local governments to enforce claims of discrimination.


SB 279 clearly prohibits city and county governments from enacting “living wage” ordinances that require private businesses to provide their employees with wages and benefits different than those required by state law. (95-25.1)

It is unclear whether SB 279 also prohibits local governments from using whether private businesses pay a living wage or paid sick days as one of many criteria in selecting bids for private contractors.

SB 273 does allow local governments to require that employers pay a living wage for any jobs created as a result of local economic development incentives given to those employers.

Given these problems, SB 273 represents a radical departure from a world in which city and county governments are able to pass laws that make the most sense for their own citizens, protect consumers from predatory landlords, and require businesses to pay economy-boosting wages.

Alexandra Sirota contributed to this report.