December 1, 2011 was the kickoff for pre-filing bills in the Missouri legislature for the 2012 regular session. I was browsing the list of House bills filed (click here to see it), and one bill really left me scratching my head: It’s HOUSE BILL NO. 1044, sponsored by Representative Ray Weter of Nixa, Missouri.
The new law requires that gas stations “shall notify the general public” 24 hours in advance of any price increase of 3 or more cents per gallon. The notification must be visible from the adjacent roadway and the notifying signs must be provided free of charge to each gas station by its wholesale supplier.
Sometimes the purpose of a new law is obvious, but unless Representative Weter explains this bill, we can only guess. Signmakers–at least–will appreciate this little stimulus (although the reason the wholesaler has to pay for the signs is a mystery).
Perhaps Representative Weter was thinking how nice it would be if he knew that gas prices were going up tomorrow. He could fill his tank today and save money. I can appreciate the sentiment.
We are all annoyed to pull into a gas station and find that prices have just been raised. This new law would end that annoyance for all of us, but why stop with price increases? After all, it may be even more annoying to fill up today, only to find the price dropping tomorrow. I’m really just guessing who this bill is supposed to benefit.
Thinking ahead–to a time when this bill has become law–one can imagine Rep. Weter leaving Jefferson City after a hard week of lawmaking, when he notices he needs to fill the tank to get home to Nixa, Missouri. Oddly enough, the first gas station he passes has a long line of cars. He also notices a sign is flashing the message that gas will go up a dime tomorrow. (These signs, by then, have affectionately become known as “Weter” signs).
He drives on to find a line at every gas station, finally stopping at the last quick store at the edge of town. He gets in the line and a half hour later reaches the pump as the manager walks out and apologizes that the station is fresh out of gas.
This well-intentioned legislation may turn out to be far more annoying than a rise in gas prices. Who can doubt it would periodically disrupt the sale of gasoline? Sure, it would be nice to know when gas is going up, but the same is equally true of tomorrow’s stock market index or the score of Monday night’s football game. It just doesn’t work if everbody else also knows.
Perhaps the public would be better served if this bill were amended to simply require all the gas stations to notify Rep. Weter of any price increases and leave the rest of us out of it.
* * *
UPDATE: Rep Weter has now explained the bill and how long lines at gas stations could be valuable. From LandLineMag.com:
Weter said he was spurred to act after witnessing significant price increases in his district.
“People are short on cash in this day and age. And if I can save some money buying fuel one day to the next, I would like to know about it ahead of time,” Weter told Land Line.
Critics say the price postings would result in long lines at the fuel pump. That notion does not deter Weter.
“Long lines aren’t necessarily a bad thing. If that is the case, I think it sends a message. I think it would send a message that people like the idea of having advance notice,” he said.