Montana's roadblocks to new taxi services

February 13, 2015 | By TIMOTHY SANDEFUR

The Missoulian today carries my article about our economic liberty lawsuit on behalf of Montana businesswoman Tracie Pabst:

Pabst owns Big Sky Shuttle, a transportation company that operates in Texas and New Mexico – but not Montana. She would like to offer taxi service in her hometown of Big Sky, and with nearly a decade of experience, without a single safety violation, she’s certainly qualified. But she’s not allowed to, thanks to a law that – strange as it seems – lets existing businesses “veto” new start-ups.

Anyone who wants to open a taxi, limo or moving company in the state must first obtain a “Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity” from the Public Services Commission. But existing companies are allowed to file “protests” whenever someone applies. That requires the applicant to prove to the commission that a new business would serve the “public convenience and necessity.”

What does that phrase mean? It’s not defined. But the law does say government must give “consideration” to “the effect the proposed transportation service may have upon other forms of transportation service.” In other words, new companies can be blocked simply to protect existing businesses from having to compete….

Montana lawmakers are currently considering a bill, House Bill 267, sponsored by Rep. Ellie Hill, D-Missoula, which would repeal the “competitor’s veto” law that blocks Pabst from operating. However, that bill would leave in place similar restrictions on moving companies – restrictions that also deny economic opportunity to entrepreneurs and hurt the state’s economy.

Read the rest…