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Eye On Olympia

House considers price-gouging legislation…

Nineteen lawmakers have proposed a bill to make illegal “excessive and unjustified increases in retail prices” during disasters like the Gulf Coast faced last year with Hurricane Katrina. More than a dozens states have similar laws.

“We want to put a tool in the tool chest here so that if we face terrorists or natural disasters, the governor has some power to do something about it (price gouging),” Rep. Steve Conway told unhappy oil retailers at a hearing Wednesday morning.

The bill, HB 2722, would cover building materials, emergency cleanup or repair work, radios, batteries, candles, blankets, diapers, tents, generators, medical supplies, food, drink, fuel, rental housing and other critical supplies and services. For the price-gouging law to take effect, the governor would have to declare an emergency.

Business people blasted the bill, saying they have little control over the price of gasoline or building supplies, dictated by national supply and demand.

“And what the heck’s going on with the Superbowl?” one gas seller said. “I think they’re gouging on hotel rooms. I think the governor needs to declare a state of emergency in Detroit.”

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Richard Roesler covers Washington state news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Olympia.

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