My intern Jessica Greene just wrote her first published article, and it’s the top story at Huffington Post this morning. Not a bad way to kick off a journalism career.
In June 2010 the Nashville Metropolitan City Council passed legislation raising the city’s minimum fee for limo and sedan rentals, bumping it from $25 to $45. Drivers were prohibited by law from charging less. Other new regulations forbid limo companies from using leased vehicles, require cars to be dispatched only from the place of business, compel companies to wait 15 minutes before picking up a client, and ban parking in front of hotels and bars to wait for customers. More laws that take effect in January 2012 would also require companies to replace all sedans and SUVs over seven-years-old, and all limos 10-years-old and older. Vehicles older than five years cannot enter into service.
Passed under the guise of consumer protection, the net effect is to give large, existing car companies (also known as livery services) a huge advantage over smaller companies, and to effectively prevent any new companies from entering the market. Prior to the new laws, Tennesseans could purchase transportation from downtown Nashville to the airport in a limo or sedan for the same price as an average taxi ride. Nashville residents and visitors will now pay almost double for the same service . . .
A transportation battle currently playing out across the country pits large, established car service companies against their smaller and independent competitors. State or local governments in Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas and Oregon, have all passed minimum fare regulations. The fight over new laws in Nashville, where a group of smaller car service owners have filed suit in federal court, belies the black-and-white approach the both Democrats and Republicans take to regulation.
Wesley Hottot, an attorney for the Texas Chapter of Institute for Justice, a non-profit libertarian law firm, says the Tennessee Livery Association (TLA), a coalition of expensive limousine companies, pushed the bill through with a number of provisions that benefit only its members. “There is no point in this regulation. It has nothing to do with public safety. It has everything to do with economic protectionism,” Hottot says. Hottot and his team have litigated similar cases involving economic liberty and property rights in federal and state courts across the country.