Friday, February 22, 2013

Robert Duvall works to overturn Metro's limo price-fixing bill

Robert Duvall
The Tennessean reports today that Councilman Robert Duvall is working as a lobbyist for Metro Livery Service seeking to get legislation passed that would invalidate Metro's limo price-fixing practice. (link) Rather than explaining what Duvall is trying to accomplish,  the article focuses on whether or not it is appropriate for a member of Metro Council to lobby the State legislature.

If what Robert Duvall is doing is a conflict of interest then there have been many other instances of such conflict.  Other council members have served as lobbyist. When I served in the Council, I served with a council member whose full-time employment was actually serving as the  executive director of a trade group and his primary job was to lobby the legislature on behalf of the organization he served. We have had several council members who served as both a member of the State legislature and the Metro Council at the same time. While both positions are serving the public, the interest of the State and Metro may often be at odds.

The Tennessean piece includes explanations that what Duvall is doing is certainly legal and as long as he abstains from voting, should this same issue come before the Council, there is no legal conflict. The article does however question the appropriateness of his serving as a lobbyist. The article does not question the appropriateness of Metro government telling a company what minimum fee they may charge or the appropriateness of the well-connected getting laws passed to protect themselves from competition.

Metro Nashville is one of only seven cities in the United State that sets a minimum fare for a limo or taxi ride. Many have a maximum allowable fares however.  I can understand that a maximum fare is a protection for the consumer, but why have a minimum fare?  The logical reason is that it is to protect providers of transportation services from competition. A minimum fare keeps companies from seeking innovate ways to lower prices or offer alternative products. A minimum fare harms the consumer.

Metro did not have a minimum fee until ...(To be continued. To learn more about this issue follow this link.)

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