Do you know it’s illegal to park a car on the street with a for sale sign in the window? One man learned that the hard way, but he’s not standing for what he sees as an infringement on his freedom of speech and limitation on free commerce.
When a Virginia man nabbed a $40 fine for violating a town’s ban on displaying “For Sale” signs on vehicles parked on the street, he filed a lawsuit against the city for the ban which he considers a violation of his First Amendment right to commercial speech. As he argues, there would be nothing wrong with a bumper sticker on his vehicle that displayed any political or non-political message, so why should a “For Sale” sign be any different?
The ban has been on the books in Alexandria, VA, for decades, but it highlights a growing problem of the burdens of arcane laws that states and locales have piled up which trip up law-abiding Americans too often. Some states are proactively going through their books to clean up or eliminate outdated and nonsensical laws, but that’s not soon enough for victims who have unwittingly become perpetrators.
The Washington Post reports:
Scott McLean’s Chevy Malibu was legally parked on Old Dominion Boulevard in Alexandria on a fall day two years ago. But a ticket was tucked under his windshield wiper anyway.
Rather than risking another citation, he called the Pacific Legal Foundation, a Sacramento-based libertarian organization that can’t stand it when government seems to encroach on individual liberties.
“I can put a bumper sticker on my vehicle about my religious views and moral views,” said McLean, 35 and a lawyer. “Those pocketbook issues are just as important. For me, free speech doesn’t have any qualifiers.”
Last week, McLean and the foundation filed a lawsuit against the Alexandria government, calling the city’s decades-old no-sale-sign statute an arbitrary ban on commercial speech that violates the First Amendment.
Late Tuesday, the city announced that it will suspend enforcement of the law while it is under review…
The city council has been methodically working to eliminate outdated laws over the past year, including a ban on shoeshine stands, known as the “boot-black statute,” and provisions that barred unmarried people from “lewd and lascivious” cohabitation.
Legislators don’t just make laws, they also need to clean the books -eliminating those laws that are no longer useful to society or are causing harm.
Cities and state houses across the country are holding “unsessions” where they purge thousands of bills that have been added overtime, but have outlived their usefulness.
The impact of outdated or nonsensical laws on business growth and the economy is real. BloombergBusinesweek reports that states have obsolete and counterproductive laws and regulations—throwbacks to the Depression Era and earlier—that discourage entrepreneurship, increase business costs, and harm job creation.
We hope that cities and states take the hint and clean up their legal logs. Perhaps, they can engender cooperation and bipartisan support for more difficult legislative battle if they come together to eliminate the easy ones that need to be nixed. Overall, everyone is helped – except maybe the public coffers that pick up revenue from the fines.