February 24, 2011

On the “move” for economic liberty nationwide!

By On the “move” for economic liberty nationwide!

Author: Timothy Sandefur

I was in Jefferson City Tuesday to testify before a committee of the state House of Representatives about a bill to repeal Missouri’s anti-competitive licensing requirement for moving companies. As I’ve mentioned, I’m representing St. Louis businessman Michael Munie and his company, ABC Quality Moving, in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the state’s current law—which requires new moving businesses to basically ask permission of existing moving companies before they’re allowed to open their doors.

Silly as this law is, it’s sadly common. Such restrictions are known as “certificate of necessity” requirements, and most states use them to restrict everything from taxi cabs to car lots to hospitals. These laws do not protect the general public, but only allow existing businesses to prevent new competition that might lower prices and give economic opportunity to hardworking entrepreneurs like Michael Munie.

But Missouri is now poised to repeal the law. Two bills—SB 58 and HB 430—have been drafted to eliminate this Competitor’s Veto provision. And I’m especially happy to say that the first witness to testify in favor of the bill in Tuesday’s committee hearing was Jan Skouby, the Director of the Motor Carrier Services Division of MoDOT—and a named defendant in our lawsuit. Ms. Skouby spoke very persuasively about the need to open the market and allow new competition. After her came several other witnesses, and no opponents. And I’m told that this morning, the state Senate passed its version of the bill unanimously.

This is the second time that a state has repealed its anti-competitive licensing restriction for moving companies in response to a PLF lawsuit. The first was in 2009, when Oregon repealed an almost identical law in response to our lawsuit on behalf of Portland entrepreneur Adam Sweet. It’s very gratifying to see state lawmakers take a serious interest in economic liberty—in the benefits of free competition, and in the constitutional right of all Americans to earn an honest living without unreasonable government interference.

But there’s an added bonus for residents of Missouri: when I told one Representative that federal law would not allow PLF to obtain an attorney fee award if the state repealed the law prior to a court decision, he laughed. “Well,” he joked, “any time I can stick it to a trial lawyer!” In a case like this, I am happy to be stuck!

I particularly want to thank Missouri Representative Eric Burlison, who did me the honor of inviting me to testify, and introducing me on the House floor. I was also honored to speak to the House Majority Caucus about my book, The Right to Earn A Living. I’ll post about the bill as it moves forward.

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