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Nanny of the Week: NJ continues ban on self-serve gasoline, because sometimes it snows

By   /   May 25, 2015  /   News  /   No Comments

Part 40 of 121 in the series Nanny State of the Week

By Eric Boehm | Watchdog.org

Once, when I was in college, I made my girlfriend put gas in my car.

It wasn’t because I was a misogynist, or because I couldn’t be bothered to take care of my own car. It wasn’t even because she had used my car and drained the gas tank.

No, it was simply because — as anyone from the northeast will tell you — there isn’t much that livens up a road trip like watching someone from New Jersey try to pump gas.

Shutterstock image

DON’T TOUCH THAT PUMP: In New Jersey, and Oregon, it’s illegal to pump your own gas. New Jersey Senate President Steve Sweeney says that won’t be changing any time soon.

That’s because the Garden State is one of just two states that prohibits drivers from pumping their own gas, and that odd, pointless rule will remain on the books for at least one more year.

An effort in the state Legislature to remove that ban was killed by the state Senate this week. Why should consumers not get to choose if they pump their own gas?

According to Senate President Steve Sweeney, the weather is to blame.

“When it’s snowing, no one is clamoring to pump their own gas. When it’s raining, no one is clamoring to pump their own gas,” he said, according to Newsworks.

As long as he’s president of the Senate, Sweeney says the ban will remain in place.

This is simply absurd on so many levels.

Most obviously, removing the ban on self-serve gas pumps would not prevent gas stations from continuing to offer full-serve fill-ups. If consumers don’t want to pump their own gas, perhaps because of bad weather, then gas stations would account for that and offer services accordingly.

If drivers are willing to brave the elements to pump it for themselves, then they would be free to make that choice.

Either way, blaming the snow is a major cop-out. On average, it snows about 10 days per year in New Jersey so what about the other 355 days of the calendar?

As someone who has family in New Jersey and has frequently driven through the state, I can admit the have-someone-pump-your-gas-for-you thing is, at times, pretty nice.

But then there are other times. Like when you’re running late on your way to Newark Airport and you have to return your rental car with a full tank of gas and the only gas station you can find has one attendant on duty and there are four cars waiting to be served ahead of you.

Times like that, you want nothing more than to be able to step outside, slide your credit card into the gas pump and fill your tank as quickly as possible. Times like that, you sit in your car watching the minutes tick away and silently (or not so silently) curse the state for having one of the most nonsensical rules you’ve ever heard.

If it’s not because of occasional bad weather, the ban is justified as being about safety.

That makes total sense, considering how often you read news stories about drivers in states that aren’t New Jersey blowing themselves up because they don’t know how to safely operate a gas pump.

Right?

To be fair, gas pumps were less safe back in 1949 when New Jersey first instituted the ban. A 1951 challenge to the ban made it all the way to the state Supreme Court, which sided with the state because of safety concerns. Other states had similar laws at the time, but they were almost all repealed over the years (except for Oregon, which also bans self-serve gas).

Any law, no matter how outdated or silly it becomes, is hard to remove after that many decades, because it creates reasons for its own existence.

Ultimately, it’s that sort of legal inertia that allows the ban on self-serve gas in New Jersey to persist, despite all logic and common sense. Repealing the law now would mean lawmakers would have to answer to claims they were responsible for gas station attendants losing their jobs, or perhaps for removing something that “makes New Jersey, New Jersey” — putting full-serve gasoline on the same level as The Situation from Jersey Shore.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Paul Sarlo, who sponsored the bill, says it wouldn’t cost any jobs.

Will it cost jobs? Most stations have one person there anyway right now,” he told Newsworks. “So they’re still going to have one person there.

A recent poll from Fairleigh Dickinson University showed that 63 percent of New Jersey residents don’t want to pump their own gas. To which I say: great.

The remarkable thing about free markets is that everyone can have what they want. Remove the ban and let people who want to pump their own gas do so. Those who don’t can still have someone pump it for them.

And those who want to know how to pump gas so they can some day take a trip to another state without being comic relief for their friends, well, they’ll be able to do that too.

Part of 121 in the series Nanny State of the Week
  1. Nanny-state state of the week: MD may become first to ban Vaportinis
  2. Nanny-state city of the week: Minneapolis wants to ban take-out trays
  3. Skim is in: CT lawmakers want to ban whole milk in day cares
  4. Nanny state of the week: Fairfax, VA, wants to limit the right to assemble
  5. Nanny state of the week: SC — and Schumer — for duplicative efforts to ban powdered alcohol
  6. Nanny of the Week: Virginia hoses down car wash fundraisers
  7. Nanny of the Week: Even a summertime trip to the beach can’t be nanny-free
  8. Nanny of the week: Federal authorities think feral cats can read signs
  9. Nanny of the week: Cambridge wants to ban ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft
  10. Nanny-stater of the week: NY lawmaker wants to ban photos with tigers
  11. Nanny-stater of the Week: Who needs cupcakes and candy? Here, have a pencil
  12. Nanny-stater of the week: Fargo limits kids to less than four shots of juice per day
  13. Nanny-stater of the week: Wisconsin towns fight repeal of bow ban
  14. Nanny of the week: No fun in the sun, thanks to Congress and FDA
  15. Nanny-stater of the week: DOT to ban cell phone use on planes
  16. Nanny of the week: The out-of-control trend of arresting non-helicopter moms
  17. Nanny of the Week: Vermont city could ban ‘human activity’
  18. Nanny of the Week: Mississippi makes bird feeders illegal – by accident
  19. Nanny of the week: MO town bans breastfeeding near pools
  20. Nanny of the Week: School bans lip balm, 11 year-old girl fights back
  21. Watchdog.org blows lid off Vermont’s bake sale brownie ban
  22. Nanny of the Week: Seattle imposes fine on residents who throw away food
  23. Nanny of the Week: California bans plastic bags
  24. Nanny of the week: Maybe this time it will be different for Chicago
  25. Nanny of the Week: Florida growls at craft breweries’ growlers
  26. Nanny of the Week: Massachusetts town seeking to ban tobacco faces uprising from residents
  27. Nanny of the Week: Proposed bans on Thanksgiving Day shopping
  28. Nanny of the week: U.S. government bans ‘Comfyballs’ underwear
  29. Nanny of the Week: Better take down those holiday decorations
  30. Nanny of the week: Towns ban sledding
  31. Nanny of the Week: New York City plans to ban out-of-state cars
  32. Nanny of the Week: Snow-shoveling teens get in trouble with the law
  33. Nanny of the Week: Get caught wearing yoga pants three times, go to jail for life
  34. Nanny of the Week: Georgia lawmaker wants to ban mermaids, werewolves, other fictional creatures from real life
  35. Nanny State of the Week: Endangering manatees in Florida
  36. Nanny of the Week: Christie caves to protectionist gravestone proposal in N.J.
  37. Nanny of the Week: Don’t mix beer and ice cream – because of the children
  38. Nanny of the Week: Is the minimum wage a nanny state policy?
  39. Nanny of the Week: Republican in NY backs cat declawing ban
  40. Nanny of the Week: NJ continues ban on self-serve gasoline, because sometimes it snows
  41. Nanny of the Week: Bernie Sanders is coming for your deodorant
  42. Nanny of the Week: Will babies confuse beer for their binkies?
  43. Nanny of the Week: Weeds will prevail in Maryland lawn care ban
  44. Nanny State of the Week: FDA bans trans-fats
  45. Nanny State of the Week: L.A. plans to jail unlicensed street vendors
  46. Nanny ST8 of the Week: Anti-government messages not allowed on license plates
  47. Nanny State of the Week: Helicopters, horses and New York City
  48. Nanny State of the Week: Lawsuit challenges Seattle trash snooping
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  50. Nanny State of the Week: Florida county sends environmental specialist to investigate BBQ
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  53. Nanny State of the Week: Colorado Springs may ban sitting in public places
  54. Nanny State of the Week: New York’s soda ban could be back — but for kids only
  55. Nanny State of the Week: D.C. flexing licensing muscles at personal trainers
  56. Nanny State of the Week: Hammock bans mean no hanging out on college campuses
  57. Nanny State of the Week: County can use same lawn treatments it banned residents from using
  58. Nanny State of the Week: Pols want to ban daily fantasy sports
  59. Nanny State of the Week: Bay Area bureaucrats ban fireplaces, wood stoves
  60. Nanny State of the Week: Halloween for the politically correct only
  61. Nanny State of the Week: Governments lag behind the public on orca captivity ban
  62. Nanny State of the Week: New York might accidentally ban makeup
  63. Nanny State of the Week: California could be first state to apply no-fly list to guns
  64. Nanny State of the Week: University may block social media app in futile effort to combat racism
  65. Nanny State of the Week: City fines residents for chipped paint, mismatched curtains
  66. Nanny State of the Week: No Christmas in Bethlehem this year
  67. Nanny State of the Week: Connecticut may outlaw smoking in many cars
  68. Nanny State of the Week: Town inspection checks whether you cleaned your toilet
  69. Nanny State of the Week: Minnesota men facing felony charges for selling beer
  70. Nanny State of the Week: City rewrites law to block theater from getting liquor license
  71. Nanny State of the Week: FDA goes beyond the pale, prepares to ban teen tanning
  72. Nanny State of the Week: Charleston’s storied history is off-limits to the unlicensed
  73. Nanny State of the Week: Feds marketing food stamps with bingo games, TV ads
  74. Nanny State of the Week: No sipping and selling for Alabama winemakers
  75. Nanny State of the Week: Jail time for texting while walking in New Jersey
  76. Nanny State of the Week: In time for Opening Day, cities ban chewing tobacco at ballparks
  77. Nanny State of the Week: Feds send LSD Ale on a long, strange trip
  78. Nanny State of the Week: Happy Tax Day! Now get ready to pay more to file
  79. Nanny State of the Week: A state license for breast-feeding advice?
  80. Nanny State of the Week: School officials bully kids with ban on skinny jeans
  81. Nanny State of the Week: FDA fries family’s potato chip business with new cooking oil mandates
  82. Nanny State of the Week: CFPB knows what is best for your personal finances
  83. Nanny State of the Week: City cracks down on crawfish boils after mayor’s aide complains
  84. Nanny State of the Week: Florida couple still fighting for their vegetable garden
  85. Nanny State of the Week: State lawmakers to decide where you can get an Uber in Boston
  86. Nanny State of the Week: Businesses can’t sell parking spaces to Braves fans
  87. Nanny State of the Week: OK, everybody’s foam toys, out of the pool
  88. Nanny State of the Week: Get out of the pool!
  89. Nanny State of the Week: Common sense goes to the dogs in Phoenix
  90. Nanny State Of The Week: It’s nanny-on-nanny in Portland pot dispute
  91. Nanny State of the Week: Your pool isn’t cool
  92. Nanny State of the Week: You can’t be trusted to rent to your family
  93. Nanny State of the Week: Protecting pub crawlers from themselves
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  98. Nanny State of the Week: Chicken nannies hatch new regulations
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  100. Nanny State of the Week: Silence is golden in Worcester
  101. Nanny State of the Week: Land regulation trampling on cultural history
  102. Nanny State of the Week: New Jersey’s great leaf-blowing war
  103. Nanny State of the Week: New York bans homesharing ads
  104. Nanny State of the Week: Food truck destruction by the health nannies
  105. Nanny State of the Week: Chicago tries again with plastic bag tax
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  109. Nanny State of the Week: Pursuing porn in the Palmetto State
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  119. Nanny State of the Week: Regulate all the teenagers
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Eric Boehm is the national regulatory reporter for Watchdog.org. He lives in St. Paul, Minnesota. His work has appeared in Reason Magazine, National Review Online, The Freeman Magazine, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Washington Examiner and Fox News. He was once featured in a BuzzFeed listicle. Follow him on Twitter @EricBoehm87 and reach him at [email protected]