Pacific Legal Foundation
Triggered by PLF lawsuit, repeal of moving-business
cartel motors ahead
Springfield, MO; May 25, 2012: Missouri lawmakers have sent Gov. Jay Nixon two bills to repeal that state’s anti-competitive licensing laws for moving companies. The measures were triggered by a federal civil rights lawsuit brought by Pacific Legal Foundation attorneys on behalf of St. Louis businessman, Michael Munie, arguing that the laws violated Munie’s constitutional right to earn a living.
Sponsored by Sen. Bob Dixon and Rep. Eric Burlison, SB 470 and HB 1402 passed recently with little opposition.
“It’s great news that this law may finally have reached the end of the road,” said PLF Principal Attorney Timothy Sandefur, who represents Munie. “You can’t have prosperity without free and open competition and a fair chance for start-up businesses to get in the game. These moving-business restrictions are a roadblock to economic opportunity. But they’re not just bad policy, they’re unconstitutional.”
The existing law gives moving companies that are already in business the power to file objections whenever a new company applies for a permit to operate. If even one firm objects, the newcomer is required to attend an administrative hearing to prove that a new moving company is “necessary” for the public. “This law essentially allows existing firms to veto their own competition,” said Sandefur. “It doesn’t protect the public. It only protects established businesses against fair competition. But the Constitution requires government to regulate in the public interest, not the private interest.”
Lifting an unconstitutional roadblock to free enterprise
Munie, whose St. Louis based ABC Quality Movers employs 15 people, holds a federal license to operate across state lines, but when he applied for a license to serve customers throughout Missouri itself, he was hit with objections from four existing companies. Only when he scaled back his request — limiting his operations to the city of St. Louis — were the objections dropped.
The Legislature’s approval of the bills marks the second attempt to remove the unconstitutional statute from the books. Rep. Burlison introduced a repeal measure last year, after a federal judge refused to dismiss PLF’s lawsuit. Sandefur testified before a Missouri House committee in February, 2011, about the licensing law’s unfair impact on small businesses. “This competitor’s veto procedure empowers established businesses to bar competition from hardworking entrepreneurs,” he told lawmakers. “Mr. Munie doesn’t want a bailout — just the chance to put his skills to work for the consumer and see if his business can succeed.”
But last year’s repeal measure died when the larger bill, of which it was a part, was vetoed — thus reviving Munie’s legal challenge.
If either of the latest repeal measures is signed, Munie — whose company is currently the top-rated St. Louis-area mover on AngiesList.com — will be free to operate statewide. “I know the moving business inside out, and I shouldn’t have been prevented from serving the public by arbitrary rules that only serve to limit people’s choices and service options,” Munie said. “I am grateful to Pacific Legal Foundation for making my case in court, and we should all be glad that legislators have acted to take these restrictions off the books.”
In addition to Sandefur, PLF attorneys Daniel A. Himebaugh and M. Reed Hopper also worked on the Munie litigation. Their efforts were assisted by Missouri activists Bruce Hillis and Ron Calzone.
PLF’s challenge to Missouri’s state-created moving-business cartel follows up on the Foundation’s successful litigation against a similar anti-competitive scheme in Oregon. After PLF challenged the Oregon law on behalf of a Portland entrepreneur, the restrictions were repealed by the Oregon Legislature.
About Pacific Legal Foundation
Donor-supported Pacific Legal Foundation (www.pacificlegal.org) is the nation’s leading legal watchdog litigating for limited government, private property rights and free enterprise. PLF attorneys represent Mr. Munie — as with all its clients — free of charge.