In a unique twist on the public protection and background check debate, a number of tour guides in New Orleans have petitioned a federal judge to let them off the hook for licensing regulations. The regulations are supposedly “infringing on their first amendment rights.” The very nature of the request immediately made me suspicious, and I’m sure a number of other folks as well.
Apparently, an aficionado of the touring type (a guide) has to pass a history exam, submit samples for a drug test, and undergo a criminal background check for a license to show visitors the sights and sounds of the historic city in. In the past I had gotten the distinct impression that certain bits of New Orleans could be quite unhealthy and I’m glad measures like this exist, if only for the peace of mind.
While the exam only has to be taken once, tour guides have to undergo a drug test and criminal screening every two years. Also, to curb the growth of unlicensed operations, the city has leveed fines of up $300 and five months in jail for each offense.
The group of guides presented their arguments before U.S. District Judge Susie Morgan, who didn’t make a judgment call either way at the time of the hearing. The city attorney’s office had asked to have the case tossed out as the licensing regulations were put in place to help protect the public. I couldn’t agree more with the city, and think the exam drug test, and background check are a great way to weed out miscreants who might want to take advantage of others.
In light of these licensing regs, I would encourage anyone in the New Orleans area who’s planning on going on a tour to make sure your guide is indeed qualified to show you around. See, the thing is that economically our country still isn’t all that hot, and many are doing what it takes to get by. Perhaps, this might include “an experience you won’t find anywhere else,” or “the accidental detour” into some seedy underbelly. I would rather know up front that my tour guide isn’t going to give me the experience of a lifetime that ends up in court.