Somerset Mayor Eddie Girdler said a bill filed last Friday by State Sen. Chris Girdler that would stop Somerset from selling gasoline to the public raises serious Constitutional questions.

“The bill contains a clause that attempts to go back two years...,” Mayor Girdler noted in a statement made to the Commonwealth Journal prior to Monday night’s City Council meeting. He said Sen. Girdler’s attempt to make his law retroactive—a move that would stop Somerset’s gas sales from being   “grandfathered”—is generating questions among the legal community.

“Our lawyers are already looking at it,” he said. “It is very dangerous legislation.”

The mayor asserted that, as written, Sen. Girdler’s Senate Bill 130 could play havoc not only with Somerset’s retail gasoline sales, but also with initiatives such as that supported by 5th District Rep. Hal Rogers to expand broadband internet service to rural Kentucky communities.

“They way it’s written, if Time-Warner wanted to stop a city or county from providing broadband service to its citizens, with this bill they could stop it in its tracks,” Girdler said.

He also said the law could have a chilling effect on things such as natural gas sales to residential customers by municipalities.

Commenting on Somerset gas retailers’ reaction to Sen. Girdler’s bill, the mayor noted: “When industry found out about it, industry raised the price [of gas in Somerset] 50 cents.”

The mayor said he had meetings scheduled Wednesday in Frankfort to discuss the bill. But during Monday’s council meeting, he frankly acknowledged he did not have “lobbying ability” in Frankfort.

(The mayor sits on the board of the Kentucky League of Cities, but he said it would be out of place for him to speculate on what stand KLC might take on the issue.)

In open session, the mayor had the unanimous support of Somerset’s 12 councilors who ultimately approved the city’s sale of unleaded gasoline to the public. When discussing the bill, one councilor was heard to quip: “Ya know, money talks.”

“We’re talking about one service station, one set of pumps, and one type of gasoline,” the mayor responded. “This is a local issue.”

Councilor John Ricky Minton agreed, adding that he supported the city’s right to sell gasoline.

“I think this is the best thing we’ve ever done. I hope everyone sitting here is ready to fight this [bill],” Minton said.

Monday afternoon, Sen. Girdler submitted a written statement on his Senate Bill 130 to the Commonwealth Journal. 

“Government in all forms is growing at a rapid pace in our country, and it is my goal to shrink the size of government, not to see it continue to grow,” the senator wrote.

According to the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission (LRC), Sen. Girdler is sponsoring or co-sponsoring 21 new or amended laws including Senate Bills 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11, 30, 71, 76, 81, 93, 103, 106, 123, 129, 130 and 137. These draft bills touch on everything from a Constitutional amendment (SB2), to lengthy revisions to state alcoholic beverage laws (SB81), to modifying “the definition of persons who would qualify as the owner of a dog” (SB123).

Of Kentucky’s 38 state senators, Sen. Girdler’s 21 bills are second only in number to the 22 of Sen. C. B. Embry, Jr.

In the interest of fairness, were are publishing both Mayor Girdler’s and Sen. Girdler’s statements in their entirety.

Following is the complete text of the Mayor Girdler’s statement:

The filing of legislation to stop Somerset from selling gasoline to the public is just the latest attempt by the big oil companies and Chris Girdler to tell the people of Somerset, Pulaski County, and surrounding counties that the people will not be allowed to have relatively lower gas prices. 

The legislation will try to force Somerset from selling gasoline in the near future and go through a very expensive process that will cost thousands of tax payer dollars. The result will be higher gas prices for the consumer. The legislation attempts to go back two years and make every city, county, Lexington, Louisville, and all others justify to big oil companies and big business of why the people deserve lower prices and better services. Our plan has worked and brought more business and profits to most local and small business while lowering gasoline prices to our great families. 

The legislation also deals with the sale of natural gas, cable services, water systems. If the legislation had been in force many years ago, our natural gas system would have never been built and the private sector would be charging high prices to heat your home and provide jobs for our community. The private sector serves a great purpose with competition, but the people know that if the City of Somerset’s leaders in the past had not been willing to provide natural gas system, for example, how could Somerset have ever prospered. 

We do not know how the legislation will be received in Frankfort. Representative Tommy Turner [R-House District 85 representing parts of Pulaski and Laurel counties], and Representative [David] Meade [R-House District 80 representing Lincoln and part of Pulaski counties] have indicated support for Somerset/Pulaski County/surrounding counties and approve of our gasoline sales. State groups may oppose.

Following is the complete text of the Sen. Girdler’s statement:

As a state senator representing Kentucky’s 15th Senatorial District, I was elected on my conservative values. Those values are to create Kentucky jobs by providing a business-friendly environment, to strengthen Kentucky families and to limit the role of government in everyday life. 

For those reasons, it should come as no surprise that I have filed legislation to evaluate government entities before allowing them to compete in the retail marketplace. 

At least in my hometown of Somerset, I am confident that the local newspaper will continue with false headlines that will again paint the redundant picture of “State Senator wants to nix city gas sales,” or “Girdler wants to shut down Somerset’s retail gasoline station.” 

The legislation I filed Friday would not immediately “shut down” or “nix” anything. The legislation requires that before a government entity can enter the retail marketplace, it first must conduct a study on the product or service that would predict how the sale of that product or service would affect the community. It would also require a public hearing on the government’s proposal, to open the forum for discussion among the community. 

Should the government entity elect to proceed after those two steps, it could move forward. However, the government would precede by following the same tax obligations, bookkeeping requirements, and market pressures that taxpaying business owner’s encounter daily. 

I have heard many politicians say, “Don’t argue with someone who buy’s ink by the barrel,” or in other words, don’t say anything bad about a newspaper. Well folks, I’m not like most politicians’. I do not believe in political correctness. I believe in calling a spade, a spade, but doing it in a manner demonstrating respect and understanding and quite simply, the Somerset Commonwealth-Journal headlines were false and misleading to say the least. 

I have a passion for public service, but I will always follow my convictions without worry of what political consequences may come. 

One would hope this statement might be refreshing to people who live in a country where political correctness has run amuck, where elected officials are hesitant to take a stand on issues for fear of losing their elected position, and where kicking the can down the road on important issues has become the norm. 

It is my intention for this legislation to enable the private sector to conduct business in the Commonwealth without fear of their own government competing against them. This will assure current business owners and future prospects considering relocating their business to Kentucky that we are a state that values free enterprise and we celebrate entrepreneurship rather than demonize it. 

Government in all forms is growing at a rapid pace in our country, and it is my goal to shrink the size of government, not to see it continue to grow. 

Thomas Jefferson once stated, “A government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you have.” 

Government has a hard enough time running itself; the last thing it should attempt is running a business. 

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