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Johnson votes for anti-price gouging law

Just in time for the summer traveling season, U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson has vowed to stop price gouging at the pump.

Johnson, who represents the 4th Congressional District, which includes parts of Lilburn and Norcross, voted Wednesday for the "Federal Price Gouging Prevention Act.

"Price gouging gasoline or any other commodity is wrong, and we won't stand for that," Johnson said. "We can't relax when gas prices inch downward and celebrate with a fill up. We've got to be vigilant, take ownership of this very real energy crisis and begin a serious discussion in this country about alternative fuels and modes of transportation."

Johnson said in a press release that the six largest oil companies announced $30 billion in profits for the first quarter of 2007, following the $125 billion in record profits reported in 2006.

"We've got to know what we're dealing with. I support this bill because it empowers the Federal Trade Commission to investigate and punish those who artificially inflate the cost of energy," Johnson, an attorney and former judge, said. "Under the Price Gouging Prevention Act, we take an all-important first step and establish, at minimum, a prosecutorial standard."

The bill features stiffer legal penalties, including damages up to triple the profits gained by the violation. Under the bill, the Justice Department could impose criminal penalties of up to $150 million on corporations, fines of up to $2 million, and jail sentences of up to 10 years for individuals. This would apply during a national emergency and would crackdown on companies charging unconscionable and excessive prices. The legislation also allows fines collected from price gougers to be directed to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

Bill signings

Local initiatives got the governor's ink this week.

By signing laws approved earlier this year by the General Assembly, Gov. Sonny Perdue gave final approval to a Gwinnett stormwater board to govern the new utility, changes to the merit board rules and to give Norcross a city manager.

Perdue also signed into law a measure that would give counties a larger say in annexation quarrels, a proposal strongly backed by the Gwinnett County Commission.

Also signed were bills concerning redevelopment powers for the cities of Lilburn, Duluth, Suwanee, Dacula, Norcross and Grayson. But voters will have the final decision in November on whether or not the governments can use tax allocation districts, a procedure used to create the popular Atlantic Station development.

Political Notebook appears in the Thursday and Sunday editions of the Gwinnett Daily Post. Camie Young can be reached via e-mail at camie.young@gwinnettdailypost.com.