Charleston City Council passes first reading of tour guide ordinance

Charleston City Council passes first reading of tour guide ordinance

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Charleston City Council passed the first reading of an ordinance to make changes to a law regarding licensed tour guides.

Under the ordinance, an oral test for tour guides will be eliminated and the passing grade will be 70 instead of 80.

The ordinance needs two more readings to become law.

The proposed changes come four months after a federal lawsuit was filed challenging the constitutionality of the license requirement for tour guides. Eliminating the license requirement is not part of the proposed ordinance.

Lawsuit plaintiff Kimberly Billups believes her legal action in part prompted the proposed changes.

"My attorney said it best. They got their hands caught in the cookie jar and now they're trying to out the cookies back," Billups said.

Charleston carriage tour operator Tom Doyle likes the idea of lowering the passing grade and getting rid of the oral test for prospective tour guides.

"That's a very pressure packed two minutes. Some people just can't handle that kind of pressure."

A city spokesman says after the federal lawsuit was filed, officials decided to step back, take a look at the current law and modernize it, bring it up to date. Billups won't be satisfied unless the  also gets rid of the license requirement for tour guides.

"The license to be able to talk, it should be part of the first amendment, it's free."

A hearing on the federal lawsuit is scheduled for next Tuesday.

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