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Dane County judge says minimum mark-up law OK

A Dane County judge says Wisconsin's minimum mark-up law for gasoline does not violate the state Constitution.

Circuit Judge Maryann Sumi struck down a challenge Thursday from Merrill gas station owner Raj Bhandari.

It was almost two years ago when the state told him to stop giving discounts of 3 cents a gallon to donors of a youth hockey league because their prices fell below the state's minimum.

The law requires gas stations to charge 9 percent above wholesale unless a competitor charges less.

It was passed in the Great Depression to keep mom-and-pop stations from being forced out of business by big retailers that can afford deeper discounts.

The Institute for Justice near Washington, D.C., represented Bhandari. It said the law violates the state constitution's equal protection clause because gas dealers are unfairly singled out for regulations.

But Judge Sumi didn't buy that.

Institute attorney Robert McNamara says he'll review the judge's decision before deciding whether to appeal.

Gov. Jim Doyle has said he would repeal the mark-up law if a bill ever gets to his desk.

Some Republicans tried two sessions ago, when they had the majority in the Legislature. But they were shot down by intense lobbying pressure from retailer, who still insisted that small stations would be put at risk.