Menor adamant against end to gas cap
Gridlocked legislators jeopardize the chance of either revising or repealing the law
House and Senate members deciding the fate of the state's wholesale gasoline price caps law appear far apart with a week remaining to reach a compromise or have the current law remain in place.
Senators, led by Consumer Protection Chairman Ron Menor, want to keep the caps on the books in some form as a way to guard against prices going too high.
House members, who previously wanted a suspension of the regulations to see if new reporting requirements for oil companies would keep prices down, now want a complete and immediate repeal of the price caps.
"We cannot support a complete repeal of our gas pricing regulation," said Menor (D, Mililani). "We believe that a complete repeal of our gas pricing regulation would represent a major setback for consumers."
House Energy Chairwoman Hermina Morita, leader of the House negotiators, said "it's too early to tell" whether the stalemate would continue and kill any effort to revise or repeal the nation's only pricing regulations on gasoline.
Morita (D, Hanalei-Kapaa) said members still have concerns over Menor's proposal that could have the price caps reinstated for two weeks at a time.
The Senate proposal would indefinitely suspend the caps but have the Public Utilities Commission continue calculating hypothetical price ceilings under a revised formula. If prices rose above the hypothetical wholesale caps for two consecutive weeks, the price controls would be reinstated for two weeks.
Yesterday, Menor offered to extend the threshold. If prices rose above the hypothetical caps over a four-week period, then caps would be reinstated for two weeks.
"We continue to believe that while we would be supportive of a suspension in the law, that there still needs to be some safeguard or mechanism in place to protect the interest of consumers," Menor said. "As to what form that kind of safeguard mechanism should be, I think that the Senate is very open to considering any and all possible options that might be acceptable to the House."
House members have said they believe the "on-and-off" nature of regulations would be too unwieldy to implement, but Morita said members would study the latest proposal.
The conference committee is scheduled to meet again Monday.
Lawmakers have until Friday to complete work on all bills before final votes are taken on May 2 and 4.