When Babies Are Born

Linda Burton posting from Salem, Oregon – When babies are born in Oregon, the doctor slaps them on the bottom and says “No self-serve and no sales tax.” I was given this (sort of) tongue-in-cheek answer to my question this week, “Why can’t I pump my own gas here?” I know that when babies are born in Alabama they are dedicated right then and there as either “Alabama” or “Auburn” loyalists, whether or not they ever attend either university; a logical thing, you see; it keeps the sale of season tickets reasonably predictable (cue, chuckle). But I’m puzzled about the prohibition against being able to manage my own gasoline needs in Oregon. I’ve asked a few residents how they feel about it and the answers all come out the same: they like it like that. “I don’t like getting gas on my hands,” is one answer; “I don’t like getting out in the rain,” is another I’ve heard. Since Oregonians are always “out in the rain” on their bikes, or hiking their lovely mountain trails, or just going to the grocery store, that one didn’t resonate; and since I’ve pumped my own gas for more than twenty years and never gotten any on my hands, I decided to track down the legislative power behind the babies bottom.

Oregon banned self-service in 1951; today Oregon and New Jersey are the two states out of 50 not allowing the practice. The basic rules can be found in Oregon Revised Statue 480.315, 2011 Edition @ http://www.leg.state.or.us/ors/480.html

480.315 Policy. The Legislative Assembly declares that, except as provided in ORS 480.345 to 480.385, it is in the public interest to maintain a prohibition on the self-service dispensing of Class 1 flammable liquids at retail. The Legislative Assembly finds and declares that:

 (1) The dispensing of Class 1 flammable liquids by dispensers properly trained in appropriate safety procedures reduces fire hazards directly associated with the dispensing of Class 1 flammable liquids;

 (2) Appropriate safety standards often are unenforceable at retail self-service stations in other states because cashiers are often unable to maintain a clear view of and give undivided attention to the dispensing of Class 1 flammable liquids by customers;

 (3) Higher liability insurance rates charged to retail self-service stations reflect the dangers posed to customers when they leave their vehicles to dispense Class 1 flammable liquids, such as the increased risk of crime and the increased risk of personal injury resulting from slipping on slick surfaces;

 (4) The dangers of crime and slick surfaces described in subsection (3) of this section are enhanced because Oregon’s weather is uniquely adverse, causing wet pavement and reduced visibility;

 (5) The dangers described in subsection (3) of this section are heightened when the customer is a senior citizen or has a disability, especially if the customer uses a mobility aid, such as a wheelchair, walker, cane or crutches;

 (6) Attempts by other states to require the providing of aid to senior citizens and persons with disabilities in the self-service dispensing of Class 1 flammable liquids at retail have failed, and therefore, senior citizens and persons with disabilities must pay the higher costs of full service;

 (7) Exposure to toxic fumes represents a health hazard to customers dispensing Class 1 flammable liquids;

 (8) The hazard described in subsection (7) of this section is heightened when the customer is pregnant;

 (9) The exposure to Class 1 flammable liquids through dispensing should, in general, be limited to as few individuals as possible, such as gasoline station owners and their employees or other trained and certified dispensers;

 (10) The typical practice of charging significantly higher prices for full-service fuel dispensing in states where self-service is permitted at retail:

 (a) Discriminates against customers with lower incomes, who are under greater economic pressure to subject themselves to the inconvenience and hazards of self-service;

 (b) Discriminates against customers who are elderly or have disabilities who are unable to serve themselves and so must pay the significantly higher prices; and

 (c) Increases self-service dispensing and thereby decreases maintenance checks by attendants, which results in neglect of maintenance, endangering both the customer and other motorists and resulting in unnecessary and costly repairs;

 (11) The increased use of self-service at retail in other states has contributed to diminishing the availability of automotive repair facilities at gasoline stations;

 (12) Self-service dispensing at retail in other states does not provide a sustained reduction in fuel prices charged to customers;

 (13) A general prohibition of self-service dispensing of Class 1 flammable liquids by the general public promotes public welfare by providing increased safety and convenience without causing economic harm to the public in general;

 (14) Self-service dispensing at retail contributes to unemployment, particularly among young people;

 (15) Self-service dispensing at retail presents a health hazard and unreasonable discomfort to persons with disabilities, elderly persons, small children and those susceptible to respiratory diseases;

 (16) The federal Americans with Disabilities Act, Public Law 101-336, requires that equal access be provided to persons with disabilities at retail gasoline stations; and

 (17) Small children left unattended when customers leave to make payment at retail self-service stations creates a dangerous situation. [1991 c.863 §49a; 1999 c.59 §160; 2007 c.70 §276]

So, that’s the law in Oregon; exceptions for “pumping one’s own gas” are non-retail customers using a card or key-activated device; and motorcyclists (although an attendant must actually remove and replace the nozzle at its connection to the pump).

It appears the legislature is focused on safety and anti-discrimination issues. But are there multiple barriers against self-serve gas stations? I found an article in Oregon’s Mail Tribune’s “You Asked” column (Self-serve gasoline restriction has a long history, July 27, 2010) that states “We think they doth protest too much. The real truth is that labor unions sought the ban and continue to protect it and the several thousand attendant jobs in the state. Oregon’s ban on self-service was reinforced in 1982 when the state’s voters rejected a ballot measure that would have legalized self service. Other legislative attempts have died before gaining any speed.” http://www.mailtribune.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100727/NEWS/7270320

That’s what I’ve learned, so far; if you have other insights, please comment. But if Oregon voters and legislators got that bottom-slap at birth, I daresay I won’t be pumping my own gas here anytime soon (cue, chuckle). Now, as to the “no-sales tax” part, well I can go for that.