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House Commerce GOP members vote to limit competition

Confusion reigned at the end of the Louisiana House Commerce Committee’s meeting yesterday, and it just wasn’t in how two bills got dealt with.

Rep. Taylor Townsend’s HB 763 was up first and eventually got approved unanimously, if with minor amendments, by the committee. This bill sets strict and complicated standards by which a price offered by a retail gas seller to which it would have to adhere. Not only would this boost the price of gas by fiat, it would also increase costs by the regulatory burden imposed.

Rep. William Daniel’s HB 183 presented much less of a regulatory burden on sellers and also did not stipulate a minimum price computed through any formula. However, it did forbid selling gasoline below its definition of “cost,” at least for more than two consecutive days if an entity genuinely was not going out of business.

Even though this version amended the Unfair Sales Law of 1940 into a less virulent form than did HB 763, oddly the committee rejected HB 183 on a tie vote while obviously accepted HB 763 which weakens little the old law. Believe it or not, in terms of non-ex-oficio members Republicans actually hold a 10-8 majority on this committee, yet all voted for the bill which would raise prices higher and stifles competition more (although if any of them had a clue they would repeal the law entirely instead of tinkering with it).

If this was a political move to send a more-objectionable bill to the House floor to increase its chances of getting killed, the logic escapes me. Why not rid the chamber of it in committee? And if you had to send a bill that limits the free market to the floor, why not the one that limits the marketplace less? Can somebody explain to me why Republicans who are supposed to be against this kind of thing are for it?

The fact is, the retail gasoline market is simply too competitive for monopoly to form. Further, almost every study of laws like this shows they artificially raise prices by stifling competition. Are our legislators that dense that they can’t understand this and this makes either HB 763 or HB 183 bad law?

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