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Guest opinion: Auto dealer rules reek of government overreach

Guest opinion: Auto dealer rules reek of government overreach

Idaho Freedom Foundation staff
February 13, 2015

Last week the ldaho House Transportation Committee met to discuss recent rule changes. The ldaho Legislature has the ability to review and approve rules created by state agencies.

State agencies are tasked with creating rules to enforce laws passed by the Legislature. Consequently the Legislature is allowed to review these rules to ensure they comply with the intent of the laws created.

IDAPA 39.02.03 deals with automobile dealers and, with the approval of this rule, governmental intrusion into private business just took another step forward (or backwards, if you believe in freedom).

It is difficult to imagine why the Transportation Committee would allow the government the ability to micromanage a private business’ operating hours, but this is exactly what IDAPA 39.02.03 does. Automobile dealers will now be required to be open for a minimum of 20 hours a week, and some of those hours must be between Monday and Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Not only that, but dealers are required to declare in writing this information to the Idaho Department of Transportation. Failure to do so can result in the loss of their license.

The department’s excuse for this intrusion into private business was to make it easier for the department to contact the dealer. And given that the automobile dealers association was supportive of the measure, the department didn’t see this as a governmental overreach.

One could make the argument that this intrusion is actually a good practice being that it might help consumers contact a dealer if they have questions. Unfortunately, this is contrary to any reasonable idea of free enterprise.

The fact that existing dealers were OK with this rule shouldn’t surprise anyone. A rule that would put up a road block for new dealers to enter the market is good for them. Many businesses would be thrilled to prevent new businesses from starting and taking away sales.

Imagine an individual who has a regular Monday-to-Friday job who wants to start a used-car dealership. It would be logical and prudent for this person to maintain his regular job and run the new dealership on the weekends. But these new rules from the Department of Transportation prevent this from happening. No wonder existing dealerships are OK with the new rules.

The idea that the department might need to contact a dealer and thereby require the dealer to be open when the department is open is preposterous. If the department really needed to contact a dealer, all they have to do is leave a message (via letter, email, phone, text) for the dealer to contact them during normal business hours. Simple problems need simple solutions.

On surface, IDAPA 39.02.03 seems like a minor rule that really doesn’t affect a lot of people, especially given the fact that I am not a car dealer. But I am reminded of a poem attributed the German pastor Martin Niemoller.

I hope no one will be offended if I modify his poem:

First they came for the auto dealers, and I did not speak out, because I was not an auto dealer.

Then they came tor the restaurant owners, and I did not speak out, because I was not a restaurant owner.

Then they came for the landscapers, and I did not speak out, because I was not a landscaper.

Then they came for me — and there was no one left to speak for me.

We can not lose sight of the fact that government is here to serve the people. Unfortunately in this case, the government decided that the people need to serve and conform to the government’s desires. And worse still, the government used its power to hinder new business development and gave existing and larger businesses an advantage, thereby limiting free enterprise.

 It is time to re-evaluate the proper role of government.

Jason Monks is a Republican who serves District 22. This is his second term in office. 


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