A new Philadelphia law that requires licensing for city tour guides will not take effect this month after a temporary accord was reached yesterday between lawyers for the city and those opposed to the measure.
U.S. District Judge Jan E. Dubois signed an injunction that for six months prohibits the city from enforcing the law, which was to take effect Oct. 13, said attorneys for the three tour guides who sued the city.
The law, signed by Mayor Nutter in April, is aimed at tour guides in the Center City tourist area: river to river and between Vine and South Streets.
Under the law, tour guides are required to pay a fee, provide proof of insurance, and pass a written test to obtain a license.
The tour guides filed a lawsuit July 2, arguing that the law, which imposes fines up to $300, violates their First Amendment free-speech rights.
"We intend to move forward and vindicate Philadelphia tour guides' fundamental rights to speak for a living," said Robert J. McNamara, staff attorney for the Institute for Justice, a libertarian organization in Virginia.
McNamara said he had sought a restraining order but the city agreed not to enforce the law for at least six months.
"The main point we were making to the judge is that the Constitution protects people's right to speak for a living, whether they're tour guides, whether they're stand-up comedians, or whether they're journalists," McNamara said.
"Fundamentally in this country, we rely on people to decide on who they want to listen to. We do not rely on the government to decide who gets to talk," McNamara said.
Doug Oliver, a spokesman for the Mayor's Office, said that because neither the written examination for tour guides nor a review of a scoring process had been finalized, the city agreed not to begin enforcing the law yet.
The law, he said, "was designed to make sure tour guides in our city have an accurate understanding of the city's rich history."
The plaintiffs in the case are tour guides Ann Boulais, who works for American Trolley Tours; Michael Tait of the Constitutional Walking Tour of Philadelphia; and independent contractor Joshua Silver.
Tait, who conducts tours of all the historical landmarks in Center City, conceded that some tour guides occasionally give misinformation.
"I think there are some errors that some tour guides are giving. They're not the whoppers that a lot of the people are saying," Tait said.