Thursday, December 8, 2011

Nanny State Update, with a light sprinkling of Cronyism

From The Huffington Post, on the actions of those who are trying to protect their contributors you:

NASHVILLE, Tenn.-- 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.

Nashville folks in need of an affordable ride, and drivers looking to earn an independent living in a sagging economy, join a long line of people caught on the wrong end of a nationwide effort by big car services to squeeze extra profit by regulating competitors out of business. It's a case of regulations actually costing jobs and driving up costs, just as Republicans charge they always do. But this time, the regulations are being pushed by the GOP's so-called "job creators," the new name given to big business.

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.

Such minimum charges for non-taxi car services are common all over the country. In Austin, Texas for example, the minimum fare of livery vehicles is $45, in Houston it's $75, and in Portland, Oregon, the fares must be 35 percent higher than the prevailing taxi cab rate. Little Rock, Arkansas companies can charge no less than $50 for limousines, no matter how long the ride, and no less than $30 for SUVs and sedans.

Think about it.... the only way for an upstart company to squeeze into a marketplace is by better prices or better service.  The Nanny Staters are doing what they can to eliminate the pricing option. 
And speaking of silly licensing and regulatory requirements to protect existing businesses against newcomers, here's a fascinating piece from Style Weekly:

It looked like the least controversial cut on Gov. Bob McDonnell’s reform list. As part of his efforts to slim the state’s $39 billion annual budget, last week McDonnell proposed to deregulate three specific professions: hair braiding, interior design and mold remediation. The state no longer would license or certify people in those professions.

You might think the braiders, designers and remediators would be happy. Who wants more bureaucracy in their lives? But some of them are protesting the change, stirring up a small but fierce debate about government intervention in the free market.

“As a conservative, I understand the desire to deregulate,” says Christopher Good, an associate principal with Glen Allen design firm KSA Interiors. But if the state government steps back, he says, the profession suffers. “We’ll be essentially barred from competition,” he says.

Why? Interior designers who submit drawings for permits must be state-certified. The commonwealth — as well as the federal government and most localities — also requires certification for interior designers to bid on public projects, Good says: “So I assume they’ll have to rewrite that law.” Otherwise, he says, architects — who still are state-regulated — could snap up all the projects that require certification.

There are about 500 certified interior designers in the state and thousands of employees who work with them, Good says. Don’t call them decorators. Interior designers must know about fire codes, the proper placement of emergency exits and other safety practices. If unqualified and uncertified people begin practicing interior design, Good says, “we run the risk of there being catastrophic consequences.”

Highly unlikely, says Robert McNamara, a lawyer with the libertarian Institute for Justice. “There’s absolutely no evidence that anyone has ever been harmed in any way by an unlicensed interior designer,” McNamara says. McDonnell’s commission found “few, if any complaints” in interior design matters and very few regulatory violations.

The nonprofit Institute for Justice has battled interior-design regulation in several states, though not in Virginia. One Florida case is poised to go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Who knew this was such a hot issue?

It’s a matter of economic liberty, McNamara says. Entrepreneurship is a fundamental American value, he says, yet requiring state regulation “serves as a way for established, entrenched businesses to keep new people from entering the marketplace.” He argues that interior designers should be able to practice freely without having to get a four-year degree, prove two years’ work experience and pass two exams — which Virginia requires for certification......

What about hair braiding, which is regulated for health reasons? Deregulation isn’t a good idea, says hair braiding instructor Dionne James Eggleston, who runs a salon and braiding school on Marshall Street in Richmond as well as a salon in Long Island, N.Y. “People need to be held accountable.”

In the hands of an unregulated, untrained hair braider, clients run the risk of being burned by hot water and “catching different things on their scalp,” Eggleston says. Getting licensed isn’t difficult, she says. After receiving 170 hours of training or an equivalent course, an aspiring Virginia braider must take a written exam on state regulations, sanitation practices and braiding techniques. Eggleston charges $2,000 for the 170-hour course.

“The hair braiding industry poses a minimal risk of public harm,” McDonnell’s commission reported. In the last five years, the commission found, Virginia has fined two hair braiders and one salon, and revoked one license.

The Institute for Justice doesn’t have a beef with basic, brief, health and safety training, McNamara says, nor with regulation of medical professionals. But it’s not the state’s job to make sure ordinary professionals, whether braiders or designers, are “good enough” to get an official stamp of approval. “That’s violating people’s basic right to economic liberty,” he says.

Professional regulation is an old Virginia tradition. One regulatory board, which licenses boat pilots in Virginia’s major shipping lanes, was chartered by the king of England in the 1600s. The state regulates dozens of other professions, including auctioneers, body piercers, boxing promoters, cemetery operators and property managers.

To shave $2 million off the budget, the governor also has proposed consolidating or eliminating dozens of other state boards and commissions. His list includes merging the Seed Potato Board and the Potato Board into “a single, unified Potato Board” to handle all research and regulation of Virginia potatoes. This suggestion has failed to spark any debate — yet

All of these links came from the great Radley Balko, to whom we should always be grateful. 


TarrantLibertyGuy said...

This was a great piece! First, I never thought they'd every unify the Potato Boards. First, East and West Germany ...then this was sure to happen.

Secondly, those pics of interior design and George Clinton-esqu hair weaves and braids were obviously done by highly trained and licensed professionals. As I understand it, if you pay an additional $1,285 to the licensing boards, they will also officially proclaim that you have taste acceptable to the standards of the governing body.

Lastly, I made a snarky comment on Radley Balko's facebook page and he 'liked' it. Just bragging.

Good thing I passed my Texas State Blog and Social Media Commentors Board Exam.

PS - the captcha below is suckshr. HAHA!

TarrantLibertyGuy said...

I SWEAR the new captcha is swalu!

First suckshr then swalu.

Those random generators at captcha can randomly generate some comedy sometimes!

Anonymous said...

Apropos nothing in particular, and not really wishing to gloat (though, shamefully, I am going to do), have a look back at the old "Some More Settled Science Updates" blog to watch Cedric Katesby launch his bloated self into orbit!

Oh, but it has been fun!


p.s. I really am ashamed of it, though!

Anonymous said...

But I have enjoyed it!



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