Snyder discusses gas prices in WV Senate - WTRF 7 News Sports Weather - Wheeling Steubenville

Sen. Herb Snyder discusses gas prices in WV Senate

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Sen. Herb Snyder, D-Jefferson, spoke once again Feb. 20 about a bill he has felt passionate about since the beginning of the session.

Senate Bill 368, which he relates to unfair trade practices, was introduced Jan. 16. The bill was meant to repeal a section of West Virginia code that currently allows for bigger businesses to be sued by smaller ones simply for being in the competitive market.

However, Snyder said after discussion of that bill, he decided to introduce another bill, Senate Bill 491, Feb. 5 that would specifically exempt sales of motor fuel from unfair trade practices.

He said in the eastern panhandle where he represents District 16, residents have seen higher gas prices than in other areas of the state, but it doesn't mean those in other counties are exempt. 

Snyder is specifically concerned with a piece of state code that allows for businesses to sue another business that competes with it by selling a product at a cheaper price.

He said the lawsuits occurring across the state relating to bigger businesses being able to sell, for example, gasoline, cheaper than smaller businesses are not fair.

"There is a law on the books from 1939 that mandates retail and wholesale markets," Snyder said. "These lawsuits, at least for 20 years or more, have made the citizens of West Virginia pay more for gas."

Snyder said while he represents Jefferson County which is close to Virginia, much of the state's 55 counties are border counties and often see their residents going into another state to buy gasoline cheaper.

"The fair, open market system isn't allowed to work," he said.

Snyder said he anticipated the bill would be discussed in the Senate Judiciary committee Feb. 20.

During the regular floor session Feb. 20, Sen. Douglas Facemire, D-Braxton, spoke about the bill.

Facemire said he thinks he is knowledgeable about the issue, since he is the owner of several grocery stores in the state. He's been in the retail business for 32 years.

"If you're a big company your cost is always going to be cheaper than the small business," he said.

Facemire said citizens should be the people who are protected.

"The big boys are getting bigger, this (state code) offers no protection, but what it does offer is the citizens of our state have to pay more," he said. "We owe it to the citizens of our state to open up a system where the real capitalist market takes place.

"The only thing this law does is really let the big boys get bigger and the small suffer."

Sen. Sam Cann, D-Harrison, said he appreciated Snyder's compassion for the law, but didn't necessarily agree with Snyder.

"I know a number of us have a concern over that," Cann said. "I'm not sure that it is the right thing to do right now.

"I think it's something we ought to look at and maybe something we need to study. We always talk about small businesses in West Virginia, and I believe we have a lot of small businesses that could be harmed if we take this attitude."

Cann said he would stress the importance of using caution before lawmakers make a choice.

Snyder said the bill is about the 99.9 percent of West Virginians who are not making a profit from the sale of gasoline.

"This is not just an eastern panhandle issue, it has spread and it will come to your area if this law stays on the books," Snyder said.