- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 11, 2016

PHOENIX (AP) - Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey signed a measure Wednesday that blocks cities, towns and counties from regulating paid time off, retirement plans or other employee benefits.

The proposal comes as a citizens’ coalition in Arizona seeks signatures for initiatives to increase the minimum wage and set standards for paid sick leave, and as San Francisco becomes the first city in the country to mandate full parental leave for most workers.

Ducey signed the bill Wednesday without comment but said he opposes municipalities creating their own wage and employment laws during his state of the state address in January.

Republican Rep. J.D. Mesnard sponsored the proposal that prohibits cities and towns from regulating non-wage compensation that includes welfare benefits, bonuses, retirement plans as well as sick, vacation and severance pay.

The measure is another in a succession of bills designed to prevent cities and towns from enacting regulations such as bans on plastic bags and ordinances for dog breeders and drones.

Republican lawmakers say employee benefits are a statewide concern that should be equally applied to all cities and towns.

“I am strongly in favor of having consistency across the state whether you are talking wages or benefits,” Mesnard said.

Democrats counter that cities and towns are closer to the affected people and have a better understanding of what they want. Stefanie Mach, D-Tucson, said it’s often best to try out new policies at the local level before applying them statewide.

“The way that it’s written it is too broadly applied and doesn’t allow for the cities and municipalities to be incubators of new ideas,” she said.

A group advocating for worker’s rights is gathering signatures for a ballot initiative that would increase the minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020 and require employers to provide earned paid sick time.

“We have parents who have to choose between work and taking care of their children and they have to choose work,” said Tomas Robles, campaign manager for the Fair Wages and Healthy Families Initiative, during an interview about the initiative.

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