Menor OKs gas cap halt
The senator's action could end a deadlock, but House members voice continued concerns
State lawmakers have moved a step closer to suspending the gasoline price cap, after its chief supporter said yesterday he was willing to break a political impasse.
The latest proposal by Senate Consumer Protection Chairman Ron Menor would suspend the law immediately and give the governor the authority to reinstate price caps if she determines that doing so would "be beneficial to the economic well-being, health and safety" of the public.
Menor (D, Mililani) previously wanted to have the caps remain in a form that would have them reinstated for two weeks at a time if wholesale prices remained high for an extended period of time.
House members refused to accept any proposal that included an "on again, off again" mechanism for the price caps.
"In an effort to break the impasse, I am now supporting a complete and immediate suspension of our gas pricing law," Menor said. "I think the proposal we've come up with also addresses my concerns and the Senate's concerns, that we still have something in place to protect the consumers."
House members said they would seriously study the latest proposal but still had concerns.
The proposal would continue to have the Public Utilities Commission calculate and publish hypothetical price caps under a revised formula that adds Singapore prices to a group of New York, Gulf Coast and Los Angeles. Under that new formula, which would throw out the highest-priced market, this week's price caps would be about 23 cents cheaper, according to Star-Bulletin calculations.
"It gives consumers a way to be able to judge for themselves whether the oil companies are misbehaving," Menor said.
House Energy Chairwoman Hermina Morita, the chamber's lead negotiator on the bill, said lawmakers still want more information before keeping any cap formula alive.
"I think people have to realize that the pricing formula that he is proposing hasn't been properly vetted," said Morita (D, Kanalei-Kapaa). "You're putting a pricing formula on the books without properly vetting it and without having the information you need to make these kinds of decisions."
Both sides have agreed on establishing new reporting requirements for oil companies aimed at making more information public to give consumers a better idea on what goes into the cost of gas. Those measures would be coupled with tougher penalties for price gouging and other anti-competitive practices.
Negotiators have until midnight Friday to reach a compromise or have the current law remain in place.
"I think we need to be open in the Senate that the House may offer amendments that could further strengthen our proposal," Menor said. "From my perspective, I strongly support the approach that we have floated today."