Finding Commonalities and Solutions With Decision-Makers
Characteristics Specific to Local Decision-Making
Preemption occurs when a higher level of government limits the way in which local government can address certain issues. It can also interfere with the average citizen’s ability to participate in democracy. In recent years, it has become an increasingly common legislative tactic. It can have a harmful impact on health and well-being when special interest groups use their significant resources to protect their interests and bottom line — preventing local governments from acting on certain issues, which effectively stops local policy innovation.
Elected officials cited the benefits of pilot testing at a local level, with local funding, which they said is a smart way to explore solutions.
"I’m a fan of pilot projects — they are smart, a good way to avoid potential pitfalls. … Let’s make sure it works before we roll it out to everyone.” — State representative, female, 31, rural/suburbanTIP
Ask where they’ve seen local areas develop responsive and responsible solutions to needs and opportunities, especially self-sufficiency and workforce.
Local decision-making is supported theoretically, but is heavily issue-based with strong parameters around the concept and concern of “overreach.”
“I’m a huge local control person — but I have to answer to my friends and neighbors back home.” — State representative, male, 54, rural/suburbanTIP
Acknowledge that the person you’re meeting with is from an area with unique needs and knows their constituents best — ask them what they are hearing before citing polls and data.
Many cited COVID-19 policies (e.g., mask and vaccine mandates) as examples of local decisions impinging on freedoms, angering constituents, and breaking state leaders’ trust.
“Freedoms are hugely, hugely important.” — State representative, male, 67, suburbanTIP
Listen to their perception of what local areas need. Discuss the importance of local communities having the freedom to meet those needs.
State elected officials are wary when they think an issue requires specific expertise or resources that local officials may lack.
"I think it depends on the issue. And levels of expertise. I wouldn’t want my local government, even if it’s a big city, making decisions on what drugs are appropriate for me to take. I want the (State) Department of Health doing that. On the other hand, I want them to make decisions on what water line goes where, sewer lines, doing traffic studies." — State senator, male, 61, rural/suburbanTIP
Understand that state and local lawmakers come from all walks of life and cover hundreds of issues. Listen, focus on shared values, and answer questions.
There is a belief that regulations make it difficult for businesses to prosper and thrive, while low taxes and stable, predictable policies invite investment from large out-of-state employers.
“Communities should pass tax cuts and tax incentives to attract business. One county commission banned all oil and gas activity (no businesses that were in the oil and gas industry could operate there) — it was a total disaster; they got sued and lost. Spent a ton of money for nothing.” — State representative, female, 31, rural/suburbanTIP
Bringing in business is seen as an economic win for elected officials — and those businesses will need employees. Bring the conversation full circle and focus on how schools, safety and healthcare are driving forces to bring business and people to the state.
A single state law can be seen as reducing government interference by eliminating many local laws.
“Big businesses love coming here because we have open land and less onerous bureaucratic government regulations.” — State representative, female, 61, rural/suburbanTIP
The underlying value is often protecting local freedom and choice. Show how every community is unique and needs freedom and choice to address needs.
Local Decision-Making Policies
When it comes to policies relating to local decision-making, some shared criteria among archetypes include:
Decisions should be made close to the people — as long as any local policy does not:
Violate the Constitution.
Override state law.
Overstep parents’ rights or personal freedoms.
Increase government size.
Require additional mandates.
Whether local decision-makers have constituents' best interests in mind, and if there is a history of corruption that needs to be considered.
Relevance and effectiveness. Many decision-makers, especially those whose constituents are in underserved areas, are focused on solving for basic needs. They may be more likely to oppose policies they consider superfluous (e.g., plastic bag bans).
Does it help the general population or focus on a specific group? Helping everyone, not just those in the most need, resonates with conservative decision-makers.
One solution is to talk about how a bill can be most effective when it is implemented first where the need is greatest, then expanded.
Who foots the bill for … the bill? There’s more willingness to consider policies that aren’t funded by state dollars.
Local Decision-Making Policy Alignment
State elected officials indicate they may be more likely to favor local decision-making for these types of policies:
Pilot projects that test innovative practices and solutions without a financial risk to the state. These were cited as a smart, safe opportunity to explore options and “avoid potential pitfalls” — and something that can be applied to conservative and progressive priorities alike.
Initiatives that source local funding, rather than from the state.
“If it’s new or an expansion of a service that they want to test out with their local dollars, sure, have at it.” — State representative, male, 25, rural
“Well, If you want to change anything it is easier to do from a local level than on a state or national level. People can buy into this … It’s easier to do it on a small scale. If it works, then you can expand, and if it doesn’t, you’ve done less harm.” — State representative, male, 71, rural
They are opposed to local decision-making for these types of policies:
Policies that may be perceived as restrictive to their constituents, irrelevant to their immediate needs, or not reflective of their priorities.
“Advocates think ‘oh it’s just the Republican lawmakers who are standing in our way and the voters really support us.’ Well, you can’t take national polls and try to apply them (here). Trans sports is an example. It might be 50/50 nationally, but I know it’s 70/30 against in my district. I know my district. They need to appreciate that.” — State representative, male, 25, rural
Laws or policies that add layers of government involvement, complicate business engagement, or pull from state level resources.