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Arkansas Small Business Owner Sues Government for Destroying His Livelihood

August 24, 2023

Arkansas business owner Steven Hedrick poured his heart and soul into his small business, renting dumpsters to residents and businesses alike. But then the city of Holiday Island tried to run him out of business by forcing residents to use a government-owned competitor, all in violation of the Arkansas Constitution.

This week, the Goldwater Institute sued the city of Holiday Island on Steven’s behalf for violating his right to earn a living and destroying his livelihood.

“The city has prohibited me from doing business,” Steven says. “I’ve got to send my business to my competitor that’s actually got their boot on my neck—and that is the most frustrating part of it.”

You can learn more about Steven’s story in this new video from the Goldwater Institute.

Steven’s customers rent out his roll-off dumpsters for large projects, then he disposes of the waste in accordance with state law and his permits. But the Holiday Island government stripped away his ability to do just that: last April, the city council enacted an ordinance requiring all residents to contract with the Carroll County Solid Waste District (CCSW) for regular trash services. And that’s not all: the city made CCSW, itself a government entity, the exclusive provider for all solid waste disposal in the city limits. In other words, no one else can pick up and dispose of solid waste in Holiday Island, including Steven, who has had to turn down multiple jobs a week due to this ordinance.

It’s not just unfair; it’s unconstitutional. “This exclusive monopoly violates multiple provisions of the Arkansas Constitution, including its explicit prohibition of monopolies and its protections for the right to earn a living,” says Goldwater Staff Attorney Adam Shelton, lead attorney on the case.

That’s why today, the Goldwater Institute filed a lawsuit against the city of Holiday Island on Steven’s behalf, urging the court to strike down this unconstitutional city ordinance unconstitutional. “If it’s not something that’s causing damage or harm to others, you shouldn’t have to ask permission to put food on your table,” Steven says. “Everyone has a right to earn a living.”

The Arkansas Constitution explicitly prohibits the government from granting monopolies, as they are “contrary to the genius of a republic.” In fact, the Arkansas Supreme Court has said that “no amount of judicial interpretation should ever be permitted to cause the slightest deviation from the clear language of the constitutional inhibition.”

The ordinance also deprives Steven of his constitutionally protected freedom to earn a living. The Arkansas Constitution protects all its residents’ right to acquire, possess, and protect property—and it prohibits the government from depriving an individual of life, liberty, and property without due process of law.

“Every day that I’m not allowed to do this actually hurts me long-term,” Steven adds. “It’s angering. All my eggs are in this basket for the rest of my life.”

The Goldwater Institute is the nationwide leader in safeguarding Americans’ the right to earn a living. The Institute has passed its Right to Earn a Living Act, which requires the government to show there is a need for restricting this fundamental right, in multiple states. And Goldwater has a track record of successfully standing up for Americans when the government tries telling them what jobs they can and cannot do.

“It almost feels like they came in to rescue me,” Steven says of the Goldwater Institute’s help. “I can’t thank them enough for this.”

In Arkansas and across the country, Goldwater will always fight to protect Americans’ freedom to earn an honest living in the profession of their choice.

You can learn more here.



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