Moving-firm law hurts competition; Unfair to business owners, consumers

Raleigh Bruner's Wildcat Moving company is ranked No. 1 in the state by Angie's List.
Raleigh Bruner's Wildcat Moving company is ranked No. 1 in the state by Angie's List. Herald-Leader

In the annals of misleading names, it's hard to beat the "certificate of public convenience and necessity," that moving companies are required to obtain before doing business in Kentucky.

The rub is that, under Kentucky law, anyone may challenge the application and force the newcomer to prove there's a need for additional moving services.

It's hard to figure out how this process serves the convenience or necessity of anyone but movers who are already in business and who, as it turns out, are the only parties who have challenged applications.

That's pretty much how U.S. District Judge Danny Reeves saw it in his order restraining the state from enforcing this law against Wildcat Movers, which has been operating since 2010 without the certificate, although it does have all other licences and insurances required.

It appears, he wrote, that this process operates "solely to protect existing moving companies from outside economic competition."

Hard to argue with that.

So, the questions are, why is this law still on the books, and how many others like it are buried in Kentucky's statutes? And, why aren't business groups across the state demanding that the General Assembly repeal them?

In the legislative session this spring Sen. Tom Buford, R-Nicholasville, offered a bill to do away with the certificate process. That measure cleared the Senate easily by the end of February but failed in the remaining month of the session to get a hearing in the House transportation committee.

A decade ago a similar logjam held up efforts to break the taxi monopoly in Lexington that was essentially enforced by state law. Eventually the public demand overwhelmed even the committee chair whose campaigns benefitted from generous contributions from the monopoly owner.

But it shouldn't be that hard. It shouldn't take years of efforts or, in this case, an enormous waste of state and private attorneys and the court's time to overturn such blatantly anti-competitive laws.

The final legal resolution in the matter of the moving companies is yet to come, but Reeves made it clear where things are trending.

"It is unlikely that the statutes challenged ... are rationally related to a legitimate government interest. Even under the lowest level of scrutiny, the statutes in question are highly suspect from a constitutional standpoint," he wrote.

There's an enormous amount of talk among politicians about making Kentucky a more business-friendly state. This often involves things like lowering taxes and eliminating regulation, which are complex and can involve serious competing interests, like ensuring funding for education or protecting workers and the environment.

However, repealing anti-competitive, anti-business and anti-consumer requirements, like insisting that a business essentially get permission from its competitors to operate, is a no-brainer.

A pro-business General Assembly would make a thorough review of Kentucky's laws to find such laws and repeal them.

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