The home rule movement, which culminated in the Home Rule Amendment to the Iowa Constitution in 1968, was a grassroots movement to claim for city residents the right to govern their own affairs through elected city councils.
The Home Rule Amendment states: “Municipal corporations are granted home rule power and authority, not inconsistent with the laws of the general assembly, to determine their local affairs and government, except that they shall not have power to levy any tax unless expressly authorized by the general assembly. The rule or proposition of law that a municipal corporation possesses and can exercise only those powers granted in express words is not a part of the law of this state.”
With monotonous regularity, Republicans in the State Legislature have taken it upon themselves to create laws that take aim at specific city ordinances that were legal when they were passed. Their goal: To reduce local control that is not in line with their narrow world view. We have seen similar approaches with respect to school boards – who are also locally elected officials with their finger on the pulse of the community they serve.
Local control exists so that communities and school districts, led by locally elected governments, can govern themselves and make decisions that are in the best interests of that community/school district.
Their voters are their checks and balances.
They should be respected as the representative governments they are and for the grassroots work they do and should not be treated as punching bags by state legislators who don’t like a particular local policy.
The legislature needs to recognize and respect its own boundaries.
An easy process should be created to reverse legislative overreach (as when the legislature passes a law clearly aimed at a single city’s ordinance).
Local governments are idea and policy factories, experimenting with ideas that can be scaled. If the Legislature takes that power away, one policy at a time, it limits local governments’ room for maneuver and kills policies that could help urban and rural communities alike thrive.