A New Jersey Senate panel is expected to
soon discuss a handful of bills that would increase the fine for fuel price
gouging in the state as much as 100 times more than it is now.
The Senate Transportation Committee is
scheduled to hold a hearing Monday, Dec. 5, to address price gougers.
One bill, sponsored by Sen. Shirley
Turner, D-Ewing, would increase the penalty for price gouging and authorize the
state to use revenue earned from fines to assist low-income senior and disabled
citizens pay heating bills.
Turner’s bill – S2810 – calls for fines on
fuel stations to be boosted to $2,000 for first time offenders. Subsequent
offenses would result in a $5,000 fine.
A bill authored by Sen. Andrew Ciesla, R-Brick, would fine violators $1,000 for a first
offense. A second offense would result in a $2,500 fine and subsequent offenses
would be a $5,000 fine.
law allows the state to fine
gougers $50 to $200 per occurrence.
The current law also prohibits the price
of fuel from being increased more than once in a 24-hour period.
“Something has to be done to create a
deterrent for the unscrupulous few who would rather pay a small fine and break
the law so they can get rich quick,” Turner said in a recent written statement.
A similar effort – S2769 – offered by
Democratic Sens. Joseph Coniglio
of Paramus and Nicholas Sacco of
would increase the fine on fuel stations to $1,500 for a
first offense and up to $3,000 for each subsequent offense.
In addition, Sens. Sacco and Joseph Vitale,
D-Woodbridge, sponsored a bill – S2768 – that would fine fuel wholesalers up to
$5,000 for a first offense. Subsequent offenses could result in a $10,000 fine.
is far from being alone in its pursuit of stations that
fleece truckers and other drivers at the fuel pump.
The National Conference of State
Legislatures reports 27 states have some type of price gouging ban with many
others pursuing their own rules. The laws in many of those states are triggered
by emergency declarations.
On the national level, U.S. Sen. Ted
Stevens said he would draft a federal price-gouging bill next year.
Stevens, R-AK, said his bill would give
the federal government the power to prosecute and convict anyone who takes
advantage of an emergency to spike prices.