There's almost certainly no political appetite for this in the US right now, but (in theory) would it be constitutional for a federal law to prohibit state and local governments from selling taxicab licenses (the famous medallions, which are valid in perpetuity and resold on the open market) and instead mandated that the state/local authorities directly lease non-transferable licenses to taxi operators/driver? (The latter scheme is common in Europe.)

The Commerce Clause, in its broad interpretation seems to allow such a law. For example, one could argue that since companies like Uber operate nationally, taxi licensing is now a matter that needs a uniform, federal framework. I could be missing some of the finer points relating to the (varying) interpretation of the Clause by the (various) Supreme Courts over time. Also, could such a law run foul of some other state rights?

  • Comments deleted. This is not the place to debate what should be done. The question is about whether or not this can be done. If you know that, please write a proper answer and not a comment.
    – Philipp
    Oct 25, 2019 at 13:58
  • I'm curious to know why this question was downvoted so quickly. I can see that you may disagree with the idea of more federal regulation. I'm simply asking if it is constitutionally possible in this area. Oct 25, 2019 at 14:28
  • 2
    I am not sure either. Maybe people are just bored by all the questions about New York taxi licenses posted today?
    – Philipp
    Oct 25, 2019 at 14:30

1 Answer 1


This depends on the Constitutional theory applied to the Interstate Commerce Clause.

A narrow reading, considering the interstate economical fighting between the State's during the Articles of Confederation, would prohibit such a passage of such a law. It interferes with private business practices, and usurps State Authority.

A broader reading, keeping in line with Wickard v Filburn, Public Accommodation doctrine, and similar, would support such a regulatory action by Congress. Though, the law would likely be a delegation of regulatory authority to the Department of Transportation, providing an intelligible principle for the Executive Branch regulatory agency to author regulations controlling the operation of taxi, ride share, and similar transportation businesses. Such a regulation would be linked to the distribution of Federal monies, of the "if you don't do X, then you will not receive federal dollars," model. Similar was done to motivate states to set speed limits and raise the drinking age.

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