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    Virginia Gas Station Operators Upset with Bill's Defeat

    The legislation would have given gasoline dealers the right of first refusal should the major oil company from which they lease their filling station property decide to sell it.

    RICHMOND, Va. -- Legislation that gas-station operators in Northern Virginia sought for their protection survived the state Senate but was all but killed this week by a House of Delegates subcommittee, according to a report in the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

    The legislation would have given gasoline dealers the right of first refusal to buy the filling station property they operate should the major oil company from which they lease the property decide to sell it.

    One angry gasoline dealer charged that a House committee chairman intentionally torpedoed the measure by sending it to an unfriendly subcommittee, where he then cast the deciding vote against the bill, the newspaper reported.

    Sen. Janet D. Howell, D-Fairfax, said passing the legislation would protect family businesses, some of which have been selling gasoline for 40 years in Northern Virginia, where the remaining 200 Virginia gas stations operating under franchises from major oil companies are located.

    Lobbyists for the major oil companies, including ExxonMobil Corp., and for Virginia gasoline distributors spoke against the bill. Some questioned whether the bill could survive a constitutional challenge, the newspaper noted.

    Opponents also argued that federal law already protects dealers from having their stations sold from under them. Del. William R. Janis, R-Henrico, led the opposition to the measure in the subcommittee, accusing the dealers of trying to get the legislature to dictate the terms of their contracts with the oil companies.

    But it was Del. Terry G. Kilgore, R-Scott, who cast the sixth and deciding vote against the measure, which failed 6-5. As chairman of the House Commerce and Labor Committee, Kilgore had asked the subcommittee to handle the bill. Under House rules, Kilgore is not required to have his full committee consider the bill because the subcommittee has voted it down.

    After the vote, Myron Boncarosky, an angry Shell dealer from the city of Fairfax, suggested Kilgore might be doing a favor for his brother, former Attorney General Jerry Kilgore, now a Richmond lawyer and a recently registered lobbyist for Shell Oil.

    Terry Kilgore said he had never talked with his brother about the bill.

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