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Court: Washington tour guides do not have to take test or pay fee

A federal appeals court found that Washington's regulations on tour guides do little to protect the public from those who are ignorant or unscrupulous.
By Frances Burns   |   June 27, 2014 at 3:59 PM   |   Comments

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WASHINGTON, June 27 (UPI) -- A mom-and-pop Washington tour company won a legal victory Friday when a court ruled guides cannot be compelled to take a test or pay a fee.

Tonia Edwards and Bill Main have been operating Segs in the City for years without licensed guides. They said the cost of getting a license -- about $200 -- was too steep for their guides, many of them college students.

Judge Janice Rogers Brown, joined by two other federal appeals judges, agreed that the 100-question test and the license fee do little to protect the public. She said the regulations are especially questionable because they apply only to guides who escort groups around the city and not to ones who specialize in a single site or supply pre-recorded information.

"What, pray tell, does passing the exam have to do with regulating unscrupulous tour businesses and unethical guides?" she wrote in the court's opinion. "How does memorization of addresses and other, pettifogging data about the District's points of interest protect tourists from being swindled or harassed by charlatans?"

In theory, unlicensed guides can be fined $300 or sentenced to 90 days in jail. But Brown and Main, a married couple whose company uses Segways for tours, have never been ticketed.

A city administrator testified when the case was a the district court level that no one on his staff could remember anyone getting a citation for guiding without a license.

Brown and Main appealed after the district court upheld the city's regulations. The case could go to the Supreme Court since another federal appeals court upheld New Orleans' licensing requirements.

Tim Krepp, who has been a Washington guide for eight years, told the Washington Post no one has asked for his license. He appeared to find both the regulations and the arguments by Brown and Main on free speech grounds silly.

"I think we have a license because we had a license in 1904, and that's not a very good reason," he said.

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