Labor Day liberty in the Land of Lincoln

September 03, 2013 | By TIMOTHY SANDEFUR

The road to economic freedom is a little bit wider today, thanks to a decision by Illinois Circuit Judge Rebecca Foley who last week* struck down the city of Bloomington’s anticompetitive licensing law for taxicabs. Agreeing with our friend of the court brief, Judge Foley ruled that the city ordinance—which bars anyone from entering the taxi business unless the City Manager considers new competition to be “desirable”—is unconstitutional because it “grants the existing [companies] special privileges not extended to applicants…. [T]here is nothing within the stated purpose and special privileges that advances the health, safety or welfare of the public,” and “no evidence that the City Manager is bound to grant or deny a [license] on any criteria relating to the public’s health, safety or welfare.”

Laws like Bloomington’s are called “Certificate of Public Convenience And Necessity” or “Certificate of Need” laws. They essentially require you to get permission from your own competition before you can go into business. In our brief, filed in April, we used evidence from our lawsuit against a similar law in Missouri to show how these “Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity” or “Certificate of Need” laws block legitimate competition without protecting the general public in any way. (Missouri ended up repealing its law before we got a decision in that case, but we are now challenging the constitutionality of similar laws in Kentucky and Nevada.)

The Illinois case, litigated by our friends at the Chicago’s Liberty Justice Center, was brought on behalf of entrepreneur Julie Crowe, who tried to start a shuttle service to drive students home from bars if they felt they could not safely drive themselves. The city tried to shut Crowe down, not because she was dishonest or unqualified—but simply because the existing taxi companies didn’t want competition. Sadly, that’s all too common thanks to licensing restrictions that bar people from earning an honest living, just to benefit existing businesses.

You can learn more about these “Certificate of Need” laws here. And thanks to Melanie Triebel of the Evan Law Group for her help filing our brief.

*-Post corrected; it originally said “today.”