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Pumped up: Fight for self-service gas returns to Oregon legislative session

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – Oregon lawmakers are once again considering a bill that would allow people to pump their own gas in the state. 

House Bill 2426 is the latest effort to make self-service legal at gas stations in Oregon. 

After a similar bill, House Bill 4151, did not make it past the Ways and Means Committee before the 2022 legislative session concluded, its chief sponsors decided to rally behind the cause again in 2023. 

“Giving consumers this choice just seems like common sense to me and I hope it seems like common sense to you too,” said Rep. Julie Fahey, a Democrat serving the West Eugene and Veneta areas. 

She and Rep. Shelly Boshart Davis, R-Albany, were chief sponsors of the bipartisan bill in 2022 and are teaming up again to move the cause forward in 2023. This year, they’re joined by Sen. Daniel Bonham, R-The Dalles, and Sen. Janeen Sollman, D-Hillsboro. 

At a public hearing Tuesday before the House Committee On Emergency Management, both Fahey and Boshart Davis stressed the importance of the bill’s passage, especially as the state faces a labor shortage. 

“As a legislative body, we should look for opportunities to help ease that labor shortage across industry sectors. This bill proposes to do just that,” Boshart Davis said. 

The representatives said the bill would also simplify the patchwork policies Oregon currently has in place when it comes to pumping gas. In some counties, self-service is allowed during certain hours and in others, it’s allowed at all times of the day. These policies were put in place in Oregon’s less-populated counties where workers are harder to find. 

If passed, HB 2426 would require gas stations to offer both self- and attendant-service gas at the same price. 

Counties in Eastern Oregon could continue to be allowed to offer self-service gas and the law would allow Klamath, Umatilla, Clatsop, Curry and Tillamook counties to pump their own gas. 

In Benton, Clackamas, Columbia, Coos, Deschutes, Douglas, Jackson, Josephine, Lane, Lincoln, Linn, Marion, Multnomah, Polk, Washington and Yamhill counties, gas stations would be required to designate at least 50 percent of their pumps for attendant-provided services. 

Gas stations offering self-service gas would be required to post one or more signs stating which fuel dispensing devices are designated for self-service and which are for attended service. 

Louis Hernandez owns four gas stations, two in Multnomah County, one in Clackamas County and one in Washington County. He testified at the public hearing Tuesday. 

He said he employed about 24 workers at his gas stations three years ago and expected to grow. Now, he’s down to 13 employees and he’s covering the holes in the schedule, which means he’s working between 64 and 72 hours a week. 

When he can’t be at a station and there’s no one else to work, it has to close down. 

He said he’d hire anyone who can walk, that’s how desperate he is for employees. He’s paying $18 per hour and has allowed homeless people to camp on his property if they can help out when he needs them. 

“Why haven’t I grown? I just can’t find reliable folks to come in and do the work,” he said, speaking in favor of HB 2426. He said it’s become a very challenging time for all gas station owners.  

Everyone who testified at the public hearing Tuesday spoke in support of the house bill. So far, of the nine pieces of written testimony submitted to the Oregon Legislative Information System website, only one opposes the bill. 

The opposing testimony was submitted by John Scharf who believes the bill violates the “Bill of Rights of Oregon” because it grants privileges to certain Oregonians and impacts equality. Oregon does not have a bill of rights.  

While concluding her statement at the public hearing, Fahey said, “Is this the most important issue that we are going to address in the 2023 legislative session? It is not. It’s not even in the top 20 issues, but I believe it is our job as legislators to be responsive to what the people we represent want.”

Oregon and New Jersey are the only two states in the U.S. that do not allow self-service gas pumping. 

Since 1951, Oregon has legally required all gas stations to have attendants who fill motorists’ gas tanks. Lawmakers argued it was meant to prevent higher insurance rates for gas companies, reduce fire hazards, and avoid slick surfaces from forming. The law lists 17 reasons justifying its implementation

Future committee meetings of floor sessions for HB 2426 have not yet been scheduled. 

Source: KOIN.com

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