Self-serve gasoline is a lot like the sales tax: everybody except Oregon seems to be doing it (48 states, to be exact).
The Beaver States two sacred cows share another similarity, however: once you give in, you will never get rid of it.
Can you envision a time when the legislature would take up the question of abolishing a sales tax or self-serve gasoline?
But it is more than sentiment that keeps Oregon firmly in the minority on gas service.
Its jobs and important jobs in economically distressed Baker City, where highway travelers make sure more gasoline is sold here than Baker residents alone consume.
Its also about maintaining the competitiveness of the disappearing breed of independent gas station a species that still thrives in Baker County.
And it is a function of convenience and safety for our older citizens.
Bills working their way now through the legislature attempt to address those three areas while capitalizing on simplistic fears about gas prices.
We dont see any solid evidence that gas prices would fall if the self-serve ban is repealed. More likely, oil company profits would simply rise.
Sen. Ted Ferrioli and Rep. Greg Smith should add their names to the no doubt lengthy list of legislators who will work to stop these ill-wrought bills in their tracks.
Consider: Sen. Randy Miller, R-Lake Oswego, has introduced Senate Bill 506 to allow self-serve but require stations to provide attended service to customers 55 and older, who are disabled or who have a medical condition that makes it difficult or dangerous for them to pump their own gas.
Two similar bills are winding their way through the house.
The first, the baby of Rep. Bill Witt, R-Portland, would require retailers to provide attendants to pump gas upon request.
Rep. Jim Hill, R-Hillsboro, would repeal the self-serve ban but have the state fire marshal require attendants at stations where self-service presents a hazard to the public.
None of these three proposals offers a clean and intelligible alternative to a flat self-serve ban.
Under Hills, stations would be treated differently based on the analysis of the fire marshal. Imagine being the owner of a station where self-serve is banned. Wouldnt your customers quickly fear for their safety, even if their safety is not in peril?
Witt would require an attendant be on hand, but there is no guarantee the station would recoup the cost of the attendant from a value-added full-serve island. At some stations and on some shifts, the attendant would likely be hard pressed to pass the time between full-serve customers hardly a good way to build a work ethic, something that service stations now do for young men and women willing to hustle in the rain, sleet or snow.
Millers proposal is perhaps the most far-fetched: you would have to show ID or worse, demonstrate a disability or show a doctors note to receive full service.
That isnt service. Thats a disservice.
And it is being dished up by lawmakers who should no better.
Join us in opposing the repeal of the self-serve ban and tell your legislature to leave well enough alone.