Video: In DC, tour guides need a license to talk

posted at 3:15 pm on September 18, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

Only in Washington DC could a person who describes the First Amendment’s protection of free speech wind up in jail for 90 days. The Institute of Justice has decided to challenge DC’s regulation of the tour-guide industry, where the capital of the free world exercises a prior-restraint licensing regime on those who would describe the city to tourists, who come to admire this bastion of liberty:

May city officials in Washington, D.C., throw local tour guides in jail for up to 90 days for engaging in unauthorized talking?

This is the question the Institute for Justice (IJ) seeks to answer in a federal lawsuit filed today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.  Two area tour guides—Tonia Edwards and Bill Main—are joining forces with IJ to strike down the city’s tour guide licensing scheme as a violation of their fundamental constitutional rights. …

Together, Tonia Edwards and Bill Main run Segs in the City, which provides fun and informative Segway “safaris” in Annapolis, Baltimore and Washington, D.C.  There is, however, a key difference between the three cities:  In D.C., doing this makes them criminals.  Currently, for telling their customers that the National Archives houses the Bill of Rights, Tonia and Bill could be fined and sentenced to 90 days in jail.

The District’s licensing scheme makes it illegal for anyone to “guide or escort” anyone else for hire without first passing a test and obtaining a special license. The prohibition on unauthorized talking covers all of the public spaces in D.C.—including roads and sidewalks.

Some may compare this case to Philadelphia’s effort to license bloggers, but the two are not the same.  In Philadelphia, the city wanted bloggers who earn revenue from their blogs to buy a business license, the same as all other commercial ventures in their jurisdiction.  Their wisdom in pursuing that notion is certainly debatable, but Philly wasn’t attempting to impose a separate license for the purposes of commercial speech.  Presumably, Segs in the City already has its business license.

In another bit of irony, though, IJ is also challenging a similar tour-guide licensing scheme … in Philadelphia.  What is it about two of the most important seats of liberty that those in power must restrict those who talk about them?


Related Posts:

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

But hey, lets not assume that Foggy Bottom is out of touch with constitutional government, or the people they claim to work for. /s

sharrukin on September 18, 2010 at 3:20 PM

Licensure is out of control.

It’s pretty annoying when taxes masquerade as licensing too. Like local municipalities requiring “licenses” for contractors. There is no testing or anything else to verify that they are quantified to be contractors – like a drivers license test. It’s really nothing more than a shakedown, a tax of contractors and property owners for a couple hundred bucks. It also delays projects, costing time and money in that regard too.

forest on September 18, 2010 at 3:22 PM

Blatantly unconstitutional. Not that it’s stopped them before (Heller v. DC).

KSgop on September 18, 2010 at 3:23 PM

All this law does is provide protection from competition for whatever “tour guide association” cabal exists in D.C.

KSgop on September 18, 2010 at 3:24 PM

It’s about the money, and using government power to carve out a niche for your friends and cronies, and impede those who are not your friends.

It’s the kindergarten philosophy of “everything I see is MINE”.

Skandia Recluse on September 18, 2010 at 3:24 PM

If your a writer in LA, work out of your home, you need a business license, pay an annual fee, and must pay taxes t the city. It’s a scam that started 10 years ago. The WGA started to fight it but rolled over like the lefties they are. I would love this to be challenged in court.

Blake on September 18, 2010 at 3:26 PM

It’s the District of Crazy – I used to cross the Key Bridge and get myself used to being in a third world country.

You are vulnerable there. Whereas in Virginia, you have actual laws and law enforcement – in DC you are on your own so you must conduct yourself as such.

Being aware of your environment always pays off. You can have a damn good time in DC, but you must maintain situational awareness.

NoDonkey on September 18, 2010 at 3:32 PM

Only in Washington DC could a person who describes the First Amendment’s protection of free speech wind up in jail for 90 days.

That’s true, in most countries the punishment is harsher.

But America is moving to become more in line with “international law” pretty much every day.

logis on September 18, 2010 at 3:37 PM

They believe in the constitution, but DC is more constitutional than the rest of the nation.

abobo on September 18, 2010 at 3:37 PM

This company operates in several states, so clearly we are talking about interstate commerce here….

slickwillie2001 on September 18, 2010 at 3:39 PM

The Secret Service may’ve had a hand in proposing this regulation. It gives police authority to break up suspicious groups near landmarks. A terrorist group might masquerade as a group of foreign tourists, to get near a high-value target.

RBMN on September 18, 2010 at 3:40 PM

Why is a test required for tour guides but not legislators?

SlaveDog on September 18, 2010 at 3:43 PM

In DC, there is one inspection site.

Once you jump through the hoops to get your plates, you walk outside and are told you cannot leave the parking lot, without first affixing your plates.

Whoops! No screwdriver! What to do?

No problem. The helpful DC employee (who will not allow you to exit) will direct you to the helpful dude across the street.

Who will lend you a screwdriver.

For $20.

This is DC.

NoDonkey on September 18, 2010 at 3:44 PM

What is it about two of the most important seats of liberty that those in power must restrict those who talk about them?

Ohhhh wait! I know this one!!!

Ummm… because both cities are overwhelmingly and irrevocably run by Democrats?

… well? Do I win?

kiltedscotsman5 on September 18, 2010 at 3:53 PM

kiltedscotsman5 on September 18, 2010 at 3:53 PM

What inner city isn’t run by Democrats?

High crime, high taxes, low achievement – the absolutely worthless, corrupt and incompetent, Democrat Party.

NoDonkey on September 18, 2010 at 4:16 PM

Hmmm… I am going to D.C. for my vacation this year in late October. I am very tempted to patronize their business in order to thank them for their challenging this unconstitutional law. :) :) :)

Theophile on September 18, 2010 at 4:23 PM

who come to admire this bastion of liberty

People travel to DC for that?

modnar on September 18, 2010 at 4:26 PM

What is it about two of the most important seats of liberty that those in power must restrict those who talk about them?

Tyranny and taxes

Schadenfreude on September 18, 2010 at 4:26 PM

Blake on September 18, 2010 at 3:26 PM

Amazing. How is this regulated? Can’t they use the local Starbucks as a business office address?

sherry on September 18, 2010 at 4:29 PM

Wow, I guess I am a lawbreaker then. I took countless friends and relatives on tours of D.C. over the 20 years that I lived there. I even acted as a formal tour guide for a Babe Ruth League World Series champion team in 1992. Shame on me!

rockmom on September 18, 2010 at 4:31 PM

And this place is fixable? Really? You believe that?

Limerick on September 18, 2010 at 4:32 PM

rockmom on September 18, 2010 at 4:31 PM

You should know the only thing DC cops are good at are parking tickets.

You can be dismembered at M and 33rd and they’ll arrive 20 minutes too late.

But don’t feed the meter on 3rd and C St. SE?

Busted.

NoDonkey on September 18, 2010 at 4:34 PM

Speaking of D.C. I saw that the Comic Twins of Colbert and Stewart are going to have their October 30th rally in D.C. Are they really…….really going to pay the $$$$$ out of their own pockets to have a similar rally like ‘Restoring Honor’?

So as I was looking at this story I ran across this……THIS SPEAKS VOLUMES about our nation but WHAT?

In a nonscientific online poll after the death last year of Walter Cronkite, Time magazine named Stewart “America’s most trusted newscaster.” Stewart captured 44 percent of that vote, with NBC’s Brian Williams finishing a distant second at 29 percent.

PappyD61 on September 18, 2010 at 4:35 PM

Fascists!!!

This somewhat, kinda ties in with this…….

http://www.americanthinker.com/blog/2010/09/president_obama_removes_creato.html

capejasmine on September 18, 2010 at 4:50 PM

I think this is also a way of other tour guides holding down competition.

Reminds me of my uncle who was a dentist in Austria. He wanted to open an office in his home town. He had to get a permit – not to be a dentist – but to practice his trade in a particular city. The other dentists denied him that permit. He had to drive miles away to another town to practice there.

kurtzz3 on September 18, 2010 at 4:52 PM

Pink?….PINK?

Cindi Sheehan is a DC tour guide?

percysunshine on September 18, 2010 at 5:00 PM

I’m a staunch conservative and don’t see anything wrong with requiring guides to pass a test to prove their knowledge.

I know that the guides at Gettysburg are required to take a test on the history of the battle, which seems reasonable.

Special Forces Grunt on September 18, 2010 at 5:15 PM

I’m shocked. Stunned. Flabbergasted.

They still make Segway’s? People still buy them?

lowandslow on September 18, 2010 at 5:20 PM

Special Forces Grunt on September 18, 2010 at 5:15 PM

I’m a staunch conservative and I see no need for 90 days of jail time. If the tour operators think there is some kind of problem, they can form a trade association that issues a trademarked certification.

Of course the freedom of speech was originally intended only for state militias, so what do I know.

pedestrian on September 18, 2010 at 5:23 PM

I know that the guides at Gettysburg are required to take a test on the history of the battle, which seems reasonable.

Special Forces Grunt on September 18, 2010 at 5:15 PM

I thought they were gubmint employees (National Park Servie)? It has been a while since I’ve been up there, so correct me if I’m wrong.

There’s nothing wrong with an employer testing skills as a condition of employment. There is something wrong with regulating who can and cannot speak in public in our nation’s capitol.

Laura in Maryland on September 18, 2010 at 5:26 PM

Everyone knows this is a tax …right? Revenue stream…pure and simple…

jerrytbg on September 18, 2010 at 5:57 PM

Tell me about it. Started an eBay consignment store. State of PA started suing us for not having an auctioneer license. Called up the state for requirements and they had no idea. Year later the rules come out, needed $100,000 bond, license, background check, and a year of schooling for all personal. That’s the end of thats industry.

Fear not we segue into Japaneses Mini Trucks, 50 MPG, HEY LOOK AL GORE, WE ALREADY GOT ONE!. But the feds didn’t like some of the states making them street legal so they made a certification process to import these 15 year old trucks. After a $500,000 bond you are allowed to certify. Each model has to be taken apart and sent to testing facilities and laboratories. Engine and trans, paint chips, bumper plastic, seat material. Each model cost $100,000 to certify and there are over 30 models.

There goes that industry, It’s like a joke.

But remember we are AMERICAN’s with LIBERTY and no obstacle can stop us. My freedom is my decision and I will be expressed. I ask you, everyone, the left, the rich, the complainer, victims of racism, what are you doing with your freedom. Blame anybody you want, even today’s Oboma crisis. But this one is yours, your personal responsibility

True Americans are in there garages inventing the next America. For me I’m developing a car that can collide with a wall at 60mph and you simply back it up and drive it away. My next crash is coming up soon and this time it will work perfectly. Almost on Discover’s “Prototype This” but they got canceled . Wish I could show it to you, but it needs to be confidential until I get some funding. I am so poor and in debt, but my spirit and confidence is astronomical.

Just try to stop me. I’m going to rock this world!

serendip2b on September 18, 2010 at 6:09 PM

I wonder if people who wear pink shirts and ride segways, would ever blame this on Big Government?

keep the change on September 18, 2010 at 6:29 PM

Just try to stop me. I’m going to rock this world!

serendip2b on September 18, 2010 at 6:09 PM

Love your spirit …never forget what our Forefathers gave us…
Now if only we can only expedite the removal of the traitors…

jerrytbg on September 18, 2010 at 6:35 PM

The cabbies would all be arrested except for being arabs.

Rea1ityCheck on September 18, 2010 at 6:37 PM

only…one too many…
just so pissed off…errrr

jerrytbg on September 18, 2010 at 6:40 PM

I’m licensed to talk in the nation’s oldest city, St. Augustine. The official line is that licensed guides have passed a test and can be relied on to keep the factual history alive without it becoming bastardized by casual historians.

Mexico City is the same. We almost got arrested for showing our friends around Templo Mayor and giving them a factual and well-researched history of the area.

I’m not saying it’s right, but it is very common for a city to wish to control its historical narrative. Of course, it’s really just another tax.

Joan of Argghh on September 18, 2010 at 6:48 PM

Maybe DC’s superfulous representive can solve this.

Just make a “contribution” to her campaign and rest easy at night.

NoDonkey on September 18, 2010 at 6:56 PM

… I am going to D.C. for my vacation this year in late October. I am very tempted to patronize their business in order to thank them for their challenging this unconstitutional law. :) :) :)

Theophile on September 18, 2010 at 4:23 PM

http://www.segsinthecity.com/segs_in_dc.htm

Red State State of Mind on September 18, 2010 at 7:10 PM

Remember Obama said that too much information is a
distraction!!

canopfor on September 18, 2010 at 7:36 PM

Wait a tic,this logic sounds good,arrest the POTUSA,
and lock up his TOTUSA for his speech’s!!(sarc).

canopfor on September 18, 2010 at 7:43 PM

Just try to stop me. I’m going to rock this world!

serendip2b on September 18, 2010 at 6:09 PM

GOOD LUCK! Get a lawyer partner who actively seeks 1) to patent it, and 2) venture funding.

John the Libertarian on September 18, 2010 at 7:48 PM

Everyone knows this is a tax …right? Revenue stream…pure and simple…

jerrytbg on September 18, 2010 at 5:57 PM

jerrtbg:Yup,tax grab!!:)

canopfor on September 18, 2010 at 7:48 PM

Harry Reid:

Who wants to guide these tourists?

My staff tells me not to say this, but I’m going to say it anyway,” said Reid in his remarks. “In the summer because of the heat and high humidity, you could literally smell the tourists coming into the Capitol. It may be descriptive but it’s true.”

seven on September 18, 2010 at 7:53 PM

Playing the devil’s advocate, I see no where in the video, or Ed’s post where they’re specific on whether the tour guides are charging for their service or the tour is free, although in the vid, it says Tonia and Bill “make a living”.

If they’re charging for the information, what’s the difference between this and selling a book? If it’s only a business license that’s required, then it is justified.

Rovin on September 18, 2010 at 7:55 PM

And people are surprised that this is happening?

You can’t carry a gun there either. That makes the 1st and 2nd amendment invalid there.

BierManVA on September 18, 2010 at 7:58 PM

Fear not we segue into Japaneses Mini Trucks, 50 MPG, HEY LOOK AL GORE, WE ALREADY GOT ONE!.

Just try to stop me. I’m going to rock this world!

serendip2b on September 18, 2010 at 6:09 PM

serendip2b: You really peeked my interest in the Mini-
Truck,with the ongoing and soon to be RINO
Hunting Season specially extended to meet
the demand,

Mini Trucks can be configured in a variety of
ways to perform almost any task.
——————————————–

Lift kit w/ ATV Wheels
Camo
Rhino Liner
Dump Bed
Mobile Gas Station
Plow
====

the Rhino Liner sounds up to the task!!!(snark).

Btw,heres a tune for your dream,rock on!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
***************************************

Rock on!-Jimmy Dean

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uNuVsitRqmI

canopfor on September 18, 2010 at 8:02 PM

The Beatles – Taxman

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Maz9ddxEQnM
=============================================

I wonder if,Tonia Edwards and Bill Main will/
join/belong/or start a Tea Party !!!!!!!(sarc)

canopfor on September 18, 2010 at 8:10 PM

No, it’s not about taxes. I’m pretty certain Gray Line Tours, and/or others, paid a small fortune to secure this “consumer” protection rule. Competition is such a sucky thing!

FalseProfit on September 18, 2010 at 8:35 PM

What is it about two of the most important seats of liberty that those in power must restrict those who talk about them?
Ohhhh wait! I know this one!!!

Ummm… because both cities are overwhelmingly and irrevocably run by Democrats?

… well? Do I win?

kiltedscotsman5 on September 18, 2010 at 3:53 PM

Yep. We need help here in Pennsylvania with elections. Sucks. At least on the governor’s race we’re ahead. What I am pis$ed about is that Kathy Dahlkemper won-remember Bart Stupack?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T5JceY6wHrQ&NR=1

Watch the whole thing. Of course, in the dead cold of winter, I will buy some Huskies and get round downtown just like in the video. Bicycles too. Heeellooo? Our cars get buried in the snow, we’re missing the snow bet by a tiny bit? Phil English mocked this idea before Sarah’s stump speech in PA.

ProudPalinFan on September 18, 2010 at 9:02 PM

I would think that anyone who is licensed tour guide in a city like D.C. would also be subject to forced unionization in one of the many public unions. Another trap.

pjean on September 18, 2010 at 9:03 PM

We did take a Segway tour in Gettysburg. The kewl thing, the guide’s Seg has a trailer hitch so the kids could ride in back and had some snacks and fruit while we absorbed the insane amount of information thrown at us.

Yes, there are some regulations/Park Service are more in charge of giving guides to the National Cemetery and a couple of other places. It was early in the morning, and I got to see paranormal activity amongst two graves (locked up in back with lock and chain, hmmm) so I was asked very quickly what was I staring at. Lil’ Miss PPF and I sensed high energy on that impromptu stage at the entrance. Check it out.

I went on a ghost tour. We could smell the vanilla/pipe scents of the “spirit” that loves attention while tour’s being given. We heard cannons being fired without any re-enactments. I believe Mr. PPF asked about their guidelines, rules and regulations, If I remember correctly. We got that self-guided car guide CD tour also.

I wanna go back to their next anniversary. This year was the big one. Perhaps stay at one of those haunted hotels. Convert Mr. PPF and scare the hell out of him. Priceless!

If you wanna see George Washington donning the British uniform, Google it. There’s a statue. Not there, it’s way farther away.

ProudPalinFan on September 18, 2010 at 9:14 PM

Of course, no one here understands these things are designed to prohibit prostitution
but that wouldn’t give you upstanding Americans a reason to criticize every friggin’ thing we the people of America do, now would it?

Observation on September 18, 2010 at 11:03 PM

If these guys were only illegal aliens things would be much better for them.

Mojave Mark on September 19, 2010 at 12:40 AM

Ok Mr. PPF is telling me this, and reminded me! On our Segway tour of Gettysburg, we had to have tapes with headsets go. He WAS NOT ALLOWED to tell us precisely what happened where we were, nor narrate stories of the battlefield that happened at those precise locations.

To do that, we wheeled around to each battlefield. He had a mike to communicate with us, and then tell us that we got to for example, “The Devil’s Den”. Then he’d tell us to listen to the tape of a fella, very old, that was authorized and licensed by PA law as a storyteller/guide, since NPS does not give tours that way. When the story ended, he’d tell us that was the end of that section, and then we used the Segs to the next field. We took a couple of breaks, esp. for the kids and to take pics.
===========================================================
That is a very similar scenario at what these folks in DC are arguing.

ProudPalinFan on September 19, 2010 at 7:03 AM

Of course the freedom of speech was originally intended only for state militias, so what do I know.

pedestrian on September 18, 2010 at 5:23 PM

Now, that’s funny. I don’t care who y’are.

Extrafishy on September 19, 2010 at 8:34 AM

License = TAX
Another tax on income you get taxed on again when you file with the IRS.
Business licenses are just taxes.
The govt’s afraid if you don’t have a license that you won’t be paying ‘your fair share’ of taxes.
Hence the business ‘license’.
I know some people may think that makes the business ‘safer’ somehow to conduct its business.
But this is a false sense of security.
Businesses that must get a ‘license’ are often either never visited by health or safety inspectors or the ‘visit’ is nothing more than another way to ensure the ‘fee’ is collected.
And yes I am speaking from some experience here.
Don’t believe it when you are told every place of business is ‘inspected’ by the govt.

Badger40 on September 19, 2010 at 10:44 AM

I’m not so sure that I object to “licensing” tour guides. If only to ensure the knowledge of said tour guides thus making sure they’re not just hucksters ripping off innocent foreign (or American for that matter) tourists. The cabbies in London must pass a review board to prove that they have learned ALL of London’s streets and must be able to tell the best route from point A to point B. Using it simply to exercise control of what and where they speak is a different story. But, ensuring that your tour guides are qualified to, you know, atually be tour guides ain’t such a bad idea, IMHO.

Big John on September 19, 2010 at 10:49 AM

Of course the freedom of speech was originally intended only for state militias, so what do I know.

pedestrian on September 18, 2010 at 5:23 PM

You Second Amendment nuts are all the same (he said as he was field stripping his Colt AR 15)

Big John on September 19, 2010 at 10:51 AM

Big John on September 19, 2010 at 10:49 AM

On further review, I stand by my position but I doubt that the “license” in question is to ensure integrity in tour guides but, rather, to harass and tax them.

Big John on September 19, 2010 at 10:57 AM

These licensing schemes are almost always driven by larger rent seeking tour operators who are using the force of law to protect them from new competition. We get a bigger, more expensive government and less liberty.

Regulations create higher barriers to entry that start ups can ill afford and stifles competition while preventing people from earning a living.

The public is worse off as they are left with fewer choices and higher prices resulting from a government imposed restriction of supply.

1207.1 No vending of any articles of merchandise shall be allowed by any licensee.

Now why is that in there? Could it be that larger tour operators own have separate merchandise operations that just happen to be at the same location? Or could this be a way to protect souvenir vendors in general?

Either way, someone will have to show me how that restriction conveys any public benefit, much less a benefit that justifies trashing economic freedom.

RadClown on September 19, 2010 at 11:41 AM

License all socialists.

Zorgon on September 19, 2010 at 12:24 PM

In another bit of irony, though, IJ is also challenging a similar tour-guide licensing scheme … in Philadelphia. What is it about two of the most important seats of liberty that those in power must restrict those who talk about them?

Cities run by liberals, and the truth scares them. They want to control the test to get the license to speak, so they can make sure the guide is politically correct.

PastorJon on September 19, 2010 at 12:30 PM

Politicians can’t understand anyone not charging money to hear them speak.

It is anathema to the pimp mentality.

profitsbeard on September 19, 2010 at 10:56 PM