January 26, 2015

Montana to consider amending its Competitor's Veto Law

By Anastasia P. Boden Attorney

I’ll be testifying in front of the Montana House of Representatives Transportation Committee this Friday at 3 pm to talk about Competitor’s Veto laws and the right to earn a living.  You can stream that hearing live on Friday here.

In Montana, if you want to start a transportation firm—say a moving business, or a taxi company—you have to ask your competitors for permission first.  That’s right, although most people think of America as the land of economic opportunity, in some states,that opportunity can effectively be vetoed by existing businesses.

Current Montana law provides that once an application for a new transportation business is filed, existing businesses can file a “protest,” which triggers an administrative hearing.  Notably, existing businesses can protest solely on the basis that the new firm will compete with them.  The resulting administrative hearings can be time-consuming an expensive; for example, Montana requires all corporations to be represented at these hearings by an attorney.  But such hearings are also unfair, because they are inherently biased against new entrepreneurs in favor of existing businesses.  The Public Service Commission decides whether to grant an application based on vague and anti-competitive criteria, including “the effect which the proposed transportation service may have upon other forms of transportation service.”

We’ve filed lawsuits challenging these laws in Oregon, Nevada, Missouri, and most recently Kentucky—where we won an important victory when a federal judge ruled that such a law was not related to the public interest, and was unconstitutional.

Montana is currently considering whether to amend its law.  I’ll be testifying on Friday to talk about the effects of anti-competitive laws on economic opportunity, and how these laws violate the Constitution.

 

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