LICENSING GONE WILD: Five Months in Jail for Unauthorized Talking


May the city of New Orleans subject local tour guides to hundreds of dollars in fines and five months in jail for engaging in unauthorized talking?

This is the question the Institute for Justice (IJ) seeks to answer in a federal lawsuit filed on December 13 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. Four New Orleans tour guides are joining forces with IJ to strike down New Orleans’ tour guide licensing scheme as a violation of their fundamental constitutional rights:

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According to First Amendment expert Matt Miller of the Institute for Justice, seen the above video:

The government cannot be in the business of deciding who may speak and who may not. The Constitution protects your right to communicate for a living, whether you are a journalist, a musician or a tour guide.

New Orleans requires every tour guide to pass a history exam, undergo a drug test and pass an FBI criminal background check every two years merely for speaking. People who give tours without a license face fines up to $300 per occurrence and five months in jail.

City officials are currently breaking up tours led by guides that don’t have the government’s permission.

Four New Orleans tour guides–Candance Kagan, Mary LaCoste, Joycelyn Cole and Annette Watt–joined Miller in filing the lawsuit because they believe the First Amendment protects their right to communicate for a living.

Consider Candance Kagan.

Candice is a New Orleans native and tour guide who survived Hurricane Katrina. She said, “I’m being knocked out of business again, this time by the city I love.”

The lawsuit is part of a larger, national effort to protect the rights of individuals that speak for a living. IJ challenged tour-guide licensing schemes in Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. Importantly, these lawsuits will help secure the free speech of people nationwide who speak for a living, including newspaper reporters and stand-up comedians as well as tour guides.

What do you think? Should Candance need to get the government’s permission, take a drug test and undergo FBI scrutiny before she can give tours of the city she loves?

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