Next up: rationing the nail salons

The way we think about "government regulation" is a lot like the way we think about our own driving.

I drive at just the right speed. You are an aggressive maniac. She is a slowpoke who should get off the road.

Likewise, I support reasonable regulation. You are a big-government liberal. She is endangering the public.

We disagree about how to drive, and we disagree about how much government to have — in fact, that's always been a dominant issue in American politics.

This brings us to Hillsborough County, where there's a fight, even among fellow Republicans, over more or less regulation of …

Taxicabs.

Actually, limousines too, along with tow trucks, ambulances and any other "vehicles for hire."

Hillsborough, alone among Florida's 67 counties, has an outfit called the Public Transportation Commission, created by state law.

They do not have one in Miami, where now and then somebody arrives at the airport. They do not have one in Orlando, which gets a tourist or two.

They have their rules, of course. You can't just call yourself a "taxi" or a "limousine" without licenses and standards and all that.

But only Hillsborough has a "Public Transportation Commission." Naturally, it is a political outfit complete with cronyism, protectionism and the occasional scandal over who gets hired.

Have a different idea for public transport? Sorry. This was the outfit that said a Prius hybrid couldn't compete for passengers at the airport.

Want to shuttle people around downtown Tampa in free electric cars? What are you, a Commie? First they tried to ban it, then effectively shut it down by saying it had to be regulated.

None of this has escaped the attention of Ronda Storms, a Republican state senator. She might be most famous for being on the conservative side of the culture wars, but she is good with a dollar and at knowing a boondoggle when she sees one.

Storms proposes to abolish the thing outright. "It's what we stand for as Republicans," she said recently. "Less government, more efficiency, more streamlining."

But now enter Hillsborough's new state senator, Jim Norman, best known to date for the house that power-broker Ralph Hughes bought for his wife.

Norman, also a Republican, has a bill to take the Public Transportation Commission in the opposite direction — really, to make it something right out of New York or Chicago machine politics.

Not only would Norman renew it; his bill would make it harder to horn in on the "luxury" limousine racket, would cap the number of limo permits, and would allow permit holders to sell them.

I laughed at a sentence in the news story: "It's all about free enterprise," Norman said.

The owner of one of the cab companies praised this bill, saying such a law would make it easier "to pass his business on to his sons."

No doubt. For that matter, if the government also limited the number of grocery stores and nail salons, the holders of those permits would be sitting prettier too.

So not for the first time, I'm with Ronda. There should be rules for safety, training and fair play.

But a government-run racket that actually limits competition? Who are these guys — Democrats?

Next up: rationing the nail salons 12/13/10 [Last modified: Monday, December 13, 2010 6:44pm]

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