A news service for the people of Michigan from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy

Tickets to the Rose Bowl to see Michigan State play Stanford are hard to get and those who don't already have them will be further restrained if they try to buy them in Michigan because of a state law that makes it illegal to sell tickets above face value. 

But a new bill would change that.

House Bill 5108, sponsored by Rep. Tim Kelly, R-Saginaw Township, would make it legal for people to sell tickets above face value on the secondary market in Michigan. Though much ignored (see websites like Craigslist or StubHub), a 1931 law makes ticket "scalping" illegal in Michigan.

Rep. Kelly

"An individual who buys a ticket to a sporting event or concert owns that ticket, and they should have every right to sell it if they so choose," Rep. Kelly said. "This legislation is about allowing the man on the street to sell tickets at fair market value to willing buyers. It creates more fairness and is a common-sense measure that allows the free market to decide the price of any given ticket. If a willing buyer wants to buy a ticket from a willing seller, there's no reason why government should get involved."

In practical terms, the current law means that if someone buys or obtains a ticket and cannot go to the event, the ticket holder cannot sell it above the price listed. Currently, 35 states allow people to sell their tickets for whatever price they and a buyer decide is fair.

Proponents of the bill say it offers consumer choice and eliminates the waste of police resources trying to enforce the current law.

Mark Perry, an economist at the University of Michigan-Flint who has written on the issue, said the bill ensures that fans truly have ownership of their tickets and allows for mutually agreed upon prices.

"We allow the market to set prices for houses, stocks, items on eBay, used cars, old coins, used guitars, etc., and the market for tickets is really no different," he said. "So eliminating price controls on tickets would allow market forces to determine ticket prices, which will help sporting and concert fans. Market pricing is consistent with a market economy and government price controls have no place in Michigan or the U.S."

The bill has supporters across the spectrum. Michigan Citizens Action is a group that "uses progressive policies and the power of grass-roots networks [to] advance social, racial and economic justice for all."

Linda Teeter, executive director of the group, said her organization supports the bill because consumers are "victim to an old outdated Michigan law."

"Currently, any individual consumer cannot sell a ticket they purchased to another individual for over face value," Teeter said. "Most consumers are probably unaware of the law which makes this transaction illegal."

The bill is co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of Representatives: Rep. Kelly, Rep. Sam Singh, D-East Lansing; Rep. Bill LaVoy, D-Monroe; Rep. Doug Geiss, D-Taylor; Rep. Ray Franz, R-Onekama; Rep. Patrick Somerville, R-New Boston; Rep. Bob Genetski, R-Saugatuck; Rep. Ed McBroom, R-Vulcan; Rep. Ken Yonker, R-Caledonia; Rep. Kurt Heise, R-Plymouth; Rep. Joe Graves, R-Argentine Twp.; and Rep. Scott Dianda, D-Calumet.

(Editor's note: Michigan Capitol Confidential regularly brings you stories about bills being discussed in committee or presented in the Legislature for a vote. For more information, go to www.MichiganVotes.org.)

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