(Center Square) - Louisiana workers and job creators are struggling with an economic crisis, the magnitude of which has not been seen in anyone’s lifetime. More than 630,000 Louisianans have filed for unemployment insurance. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the unemployment rate for April was 14.5 percent, while another analysis puts the rate in Louisiana above 30 percent.
So given these facts, why is the Louisiana legislature poised to pass a bill that could cripple a lifeline to one of the only ways local entrepreneurs have been able to reach customers amid the COVID-19 crisis?
SB 476, a bill to purportedly prevent the resale of stolen goods online, would not only add large burdens to those selling online, but could even cause some online marketplaces to leave Louisiana altogether.
The legislation, which is a combination of two unpopular federal bills, would require that all online marketplaces obtain and post the personal information of everyone who makes a sale on their platform. Imagine having to put your name, address, and phone number next to everything you ever listed to sell online.
In addition to lessening the privacy of Louisianans, this bill would add significant costs to online marketplaces. Platforms like Nextdoor or Craigslist might simply pack up shop, depriving Louisianans of ways to make money during this difficult time.
These requirements could kick in at just $20,000 of online sales. This means those making only $400 in sales a week would meet this threshold and have to hand over their personal information. Of course, this also means the platforms would need to start tracking sellers after their first sale to ensure they know when the threshold has been crossed.
Additionally, the bill would require sellers to verify any trademark on their items. Again, this would mean reviewing thousands of items each day, including everything from old band T-shirts to Disney collectables. Imagine having to determine if every posting you made online used someone’s copyright. This would do little to protect consumers, and would instead add significant burdens to platforms.
Given its major negative impacts, it’s no surprise that SB 476 heavily borrows its language from a federal bill that only has a handful of co-sponsors in Congress. This leads to one of the bill’s inherent constitutional problems – attempting to regulate interstate commerce. States cannot regulate businesses in other states.
The bottom line is that in addition to the host of legal and enforcement problems surrounding SB 476, this bill would hurt countless Louisiana small enterprises that are in desperate need of relief right now.
The ability to sell online has been the only thing keeping many Louisianans afloat in recent months. Setting up your own company website is costly and time consuming, especially when resources are stretched thin. The importance of these online platforms to Louisiana entrepreneurs cannot be overstated. Why would lawmakers put them at risk?
SB 476 would be a mistake to pass in normal times. Passing it during this historic economic crisis would be misguided. Louisiana entrepreneurs need to reach their customers now, more than ever, without being burdened by onerous government regulations.
Eric Peterson is the Director of the Pelican Center for Technology and Innovation.