Edwards Blocks Bill That Could Help House GOP Leader's Store
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Gov. John Bel Edwards has vetoed a bill to allow independent Louisiana gas stations to sue larger gas station companies over unfair pricing.
The measure was sponsored by House GOP leader Lance Harris, who owns Leebo's Stores, a chain of nine gas stations in the Alexandria area that could have benefited from the legislation Edwards vetoed.
NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune reports that in the veto message released Monday, Edwards said he rejected the bill because it "would likely result in higher fuel prices for Louisiana drivers."
The Democratic governor and Harris are regularly at odds.
The vetoed bill was one of two Harris filed this spring to address what he describes as an unfair advantage national corporations have over smaller gas stations like his. The other bill failed to win legislative support.
The House GOP delegation chairman has complained that "big box" gas station chains have been selling gasoline at below the market rate, making it more difficult for stations like his own to compete.
"In my home market right now, this past weekend, there are two or three national box chains that were selling gasoline at $2.32 per gallon. My laid-in cost, as a retailer, doing Exxon, Shell and Chevron — not one of them was less than $2.49 per gallon," Harris told a Senate committee during bill debate. "That is how much it costs me to put it into the ground."
Under current law, only the state's attorney general and district attorneys can pursue legal action against gas stations for unfair fuel pricing. Harris' bill also would have allowed gas station owners to sue each other in civil court for selling gas at a price deemed too low.
Harris said he brought the bill on behalf of the Louisiana Oil Marketers and Convenience Store Association, which represents independent gas station owners.
Opponents of Harris' bill included national corporations that own gas stations and AARP.
Harris dismissed suggestions it was improper for him to push a proposal involving his own industry. He noted other lawmakers, such as attorneys, farmers and nursing home owners, regularly file or promote bills involving their industries. He's noted some lawyers file bills on behalf of judges that oversee their cases.
Edwards has vetoed 13 bills from the regular legislative session that ended last month.
House Bill 845: www.legis.la.gov