Wisconsin didn’t have an anti-price gouging law in 2001, so the state government’s response to post-9/11 reports of gasoline price gouging was pretty limited. While the Wisconsin governor called for an investigation of gasoline retailers, for all practical purposes the investigation was limited to fighting collusion in price setting and instances in which stations may have changed prices more than once in a 24-hour period. (See the previous post for a related discussion. The state also had a law which prescribed a minimum 9.18 cent per gallon retailer margin, to prevent prices from becoming ‘too low,’ but that law was not an issue at the time.)
In early 2002, Wisconsin State Rep. Marlin Schneider introduced an anti-price gouging bill limited to petroleum-based fuels and providing for fines up to $10,000 and prison terms as long at 15 years, but the Wisconsin legislature did not pass it. Wisconsin did eventually pass an anti-price gouging law in 2006, largely in response to gasoline price increases after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita (see regulation here).
One of Wisconsin State Rep. Josh Zepnick’s talking points in favor of the bill was President George Bush’s public call in April 26, 2006 for an investigation into “illegal manipulation or cheating related to the current gasoline prices,” which was followed up by a letter from Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to state Attorneys General asking them to “enforce vigorously the laws of your State against any anticompetitive, anticonsumer conduct in the petroleum industry.”
Zepnick observed that Wisconsin lacked a law that would enable the state to support the President. More:
“Wisconsin consumers are worried about price gouging,” concluded Zepnick. “President Bush and Attorney General Gonzales are worried about price gouging. Legislative Democrats are worried about price gouging. Everyone is worried about price gouging except for Wisconsin’s Legislative Republicans. It’s time they get with the picture.
The law was enacted within a month.
ADDENDUM: Seven states did pass anti-price gouging laws in 2001 or 2002, primarily in response to post-9/11 reports of price gouging on gasoline and other goods and services: NJ, ID, IN, KS, SC, TN, WV. A few states passed anti-price gouging laws in 2003, 2004 and 2005, responding to both post-9/11 reports and hurricane-related price gouging: NC, KY, VA, UT. The other three states passing an anti-price gouging law in 2006 were ME, PA, and VT. Oregon followed with an anti-price gouging law in 2007.