New Tennessee Law Ruled Unconstitutional, Says Beacon Center Official


A federal judge has halted enforcement of a new state law that state legislators passed earlier this year that forces online auctioneers to get a state license.

This, according to Braden Boucek, vice president of legal affairs for the Nashville-based Beacon Center of Tennessee.

Beacon is a free-market think tank.

Boucek argued against the law in federal court.

“We are confident that the law was unconstitutional and today’s ruling reinforced our conclusions. Tennesseans believe in freedom and shared economic opportunity. This law was a step in the wrong direction,” Boucek said.

“The judge was correct to find it unconstitutional. As a state, we should be looking for ways to lower the barriers to employment, especially in rural counties. Instead, we passed a law that eradicated hundreds of good paying Tennessee jobs at the stroke of a pen.”

In emailed statements to The Star, Aaron McKee from Purple Wave Auction said he was “really relieved that we are able to continue to conduct auctions without having to worry about breaking the law in Tennessee.”

“I’m thankful that we live in a country with a Constitution that protects us in situations like this. It is difficult enough to do good business without provincial regulations designed to restrict competition,” McKee said.

Blake Kimball, an online auction manager, said “Today I’m glad to be able to go to work without having to worry about the state trying to prevent me from doing my job and taking care of my clients.”

“I’m glad the court ruled in our favor and stopped the state from taking away jobs from everyday Tennesseans like me,” Kimball said.

Earlier this month, Federal Judge Eli Richardson extended a prior temporary restraining order on the law for 14 days. Richardson said he’d issue a ruling sometime this month.

Boucek said it’s clear these laws were enacted to benefit licensed auctioneers who didn’t want to deal with an innovative upstart, and it was not based on any actual consumer complaint.

“One video we played (in court) was of the Auctioneer Task Force, where the commissioner’s designee says consumers aren’t complaining, and the reason why they’re not complaining is not because we don’t record the data,” Boucek said.

“We record the data. It’s just that no one is complaining.”

Members of the state attorney general’s office, fighting for the law, told Richardson that auctioneering isn’t speech — it’s conduct.

As Vanderbilt’s website reported, U.S. Republican President Donald Trump’s administration nominated Richardson to the seat in 2018.

Beacon officials said the state exempts big online auction sites, including eBay.

As The Star reported in April, online auctioneers will suffer, as will Tennessee’s economy, if state officials require them to get a license, Beacon officials said at the time.

Also, as The Star reported, legislators in other states, including Louisiana, Mississippi, and Kentucky were likely monitoring the case.

That’s because legislators in other states are looking to this Tennessee law as a model for how to do things in their respective states.

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Chris Butler is an investigative journalist at The Tennessee Star. Follow Chris on Facebook. Email tips to [email protected]




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2 Thoughts to “New Tennessee Law Ruled Unconstitutional, Says Beacon Center Official”

  1. Karen Bracken

    If this law is determined to be unconstitutional that doesn’t say much for our state government and the state legal team regarding their own kmowledge of the constitution now does it??

    1. David

      No, the judge may be be wrong. Judges aren’t perfect.