Tour guides no longer have to pass a test and pay a fee to lead visitors around the District of Columbia.
This morning, the United States Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that requiring Segway sight-seeing tour guides to pay the $200 fee and pass a test violated the First Amendment.
Segs in the City, a small Washington, D.C., sightseeing business, filed suit against the D.C. licensing scheme, which required guides to pass a multiple-choice test and pay a $200 fee to become certified or face possible civil and criminal penalties. The exam covers “the applicant’s knowledge of buildings and points of historical and general interest in the District”.
Tonia Edwards and Bill Main, owners of Segs in the City, sued in federal court, arguing this scheme violated the First Amendment. “This is an argument of principle, not of economics,” said Main, who hails from Australia. But there is an economic angle as well: Occupational licensure laws serve as barriers to entry for new businesses and thus tend to discourage employment and limit consumer choice.
After their lawsuit failed at the district court level, Edwards and Main appealed, and the D.C. Circuit today ruled in their favor,, holding that the record was “utterly devoid” of evidence either that D.C. has a problem with ill-informed tour guides or that the test did anything to protect the D.C. economy from the dangers of uninformed tour guides.