Solicitation Law Called Unconstitutional

AUSTIN (CN) – A chiropractor and an attorney challenged the constitutionality of a new Texas law that bars certain professionals from soliciting clients within 30 days of an event such as an injury or traffic citation. Texas House Bill 148 would make an act as benign as handing out “a business card or a truthful brochure” a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in prison and a $4,000 fine.

     The bill, scheduled to take effect Tuesday, Sept. 1, also makes referring clients illegal within the time frame, say attorney Christopher Villasana and Dr. Donald McKinley.
     The Legislature says the bill is meant to protect vulnerable Texans from excessive and deceptive solicitation.
But Villasana and McKinley say it violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments. They sued Attorney General Greg Abbott in Federal Court.
     Villasana and McKinley say H.B. 148 targets small business owners who depend on solicitation and third party referrals to get clients.
     They say bill places no prohibitions on widely disseminated advertisements, such as billboards or television and radio commercials, giving an advantage to larger firms and companies with deeper pockets.
     Nor does it prohibit insurance companies from funneling injured people to doctors or clinics of the companies’ choice.
     Villasana and McKinley also say the measure harms consumers by depriving them of medical treatment options, and leaves them more susceptible to racking up civil penalties or to possible arrest and incarceration in the case of traffic citations and issuance of warrants.
     They seek declaratory judgment, an injunction and costs. They are represented by Martyn Hill of Houston.

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