Shirkey committee reports bill leveling playing field for small-business owners

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LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Mike Shirkey, chairman of the Michigan Competitiveness Committee, voted out legislation Wednesday that removes restrictions on the owners of small gas stations wishing to obtain liquor licenses.

The Competitiveness Committee exists to address and repair legislation or regulations where unfair advantages for some businesses are unintentionally created, monopolies are created, or consumers have artificially limited choices.

Senate Bill 929, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, is similar to legislation Shirkey advocated when he was first elected as a state representative.

“This bill is about giving small-business owners in our communities the opportunity to compete with larger stores that can afford to have massive inventories,” said Shirkey, R-Clarklake. “Many parts of Branch, Hillsdale, and Jackson counties have smaller mom-and-pop-type stations in rural areas that would never be able to reach the inventory levels of bigger stores. Not only was this not fair to smaller stores, but in some cases it caused people to leave their own communities instead of shopping nearby.”

SB 929 would improve small-business opportunities by allowing for the application of wine and beer licenses at all establishments where fuel pumps are present. It does so by removing a requirement stating that gas stations must maintain $250,000 of inventory, opening the door to local fill-up stations with smaller storefronts.

“The legislation will be a much-appreciated change for both business owners and their customers,” said Pete Langley, executive director of the American Petroleum Institute. “Individuals won’t have to go so far for items on their list, and gas stations will compete for their business at a more equal level. It improves the process for everyone involved.”

SB 929 now moves to the full Senate for a vote. If passed into law, the bill would give existing gas stations, previously barred from holding licenses, a special 60-day period to apply for them, and it would establish a process for new stations in the future.