The era of small government remains over in Wisconsin, as the state legislature continues to chew away at municipal self-governance. This time: cities are prohibited from requiring regular inspections of rental properties.
Just to remind you again what the Wisconsin Constitution says on this point:
Cities and villages organized pursuant to state law may determine their local affairs and government, subject only to this constitution and to such enactments of the legislature of statewide concern as with uniformity shall affect every city or every village.
Over the years, the state has accorded to itself the power to declare just about anything a city might do “of statewide concern,” rendering the Home Rule Amendment essentially null. The statewide effect of Beloit requiring landlords to subject their rental properties to safety inspections every once in a while seems pretty minor to me. I guess that’s why I’m not on the Wisconsin Supreme Court.
And yes, I get that there’s lots of interpretation of the Commerce Clause that runs roughly along the same lines. And yes, I get that a strong interpretation of home rule would keep states from invalidating discriminatory municipal ordinances unless they ran afoul of federal law. But these judges say they’re pure custodians of the Constitutional text. It gets up my nose when they act as if it doesn’t exist.
Good piece about the erosion of home rule from the League of Wisconsin Municipalities.
Previous blog post where I complain at length about previous SC-WI home rule jurisprudence.