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HEARING SET ON ITEM-PRICING BILL PROPOSED MEASURE TRIGGERS DEBATE IN ALLEGANY COUNTY LEGISLATURE

BELMONT -- A public hearing is scheduled for April 10 on a proposed Allegany County item-pricing law that has already generated controversy in the county Legislature.

Legislator James Graffrath, R-Andover, told the Legislature on Monday he comes from a grocery retailing background and considers the measure unnecessary.

Graffrath, a former police officer and publisher of a weekly shopper, said the measure would overlap with existing state law.

But Legislator Rodney Bennett, R-Dalton, said he could find no state Agriculture and Markets law regulating price-scanner accuracy.

The proposed law calls for assuring "the consumer clear and accurate item pricing, high scanner accuracy, and the option for the retail store to shelf price . . ."

The law would require most goods in a grocery store to have their prices "conspicuously, clearly and plainly marked, stamped, tagged or affixed . . . in Arabic numerals."

Exceptions to the requirement in the proposal include bulk foods, fresh dairy products, food for on-premises consumption, tobacco products and frozen foods.

Bennett introduced the local law at the beginning of the meeting, as chairman of the Public Safety Committee, which has jurisdiction over the Weights and Measures Department. That department would enforce the law if it is adopted.

Bennett also introduced legislation calling for the public hearing, with a second offered by Legislator Kenneth Nielsen, R-Houghton.

"Everyone is aware of getting an itemized bill" at a scanner-using checkout line, said Graffrath.

People know how to question prices printed by scanners to be sure they are accurate, he said.

Legislator Susan Myers, R-Friendship, said she had recent experience with inaccurate scanning.

"They charged me less than the right price, and I took the item back," said Mrs. Myers, who said she believes in getting a bargain, but only fairly.

Legislator Edgar Sherman, R-Little Genesee, said he had passed up several items in a Portville grocery store last weekend because their prices were not available before purchase.

"I just would not bring a lot of those things to the clerk, to have the scanner tell me they cost too much," he said.

Graffrath called the proposed local law "a 12-page monster," saying: "Few people are confused" by universal price coding and scanner readings.

He said the measure would "hurt small businesses, the mini-marts." Affected merchants and other interested persons should attend the hearing and make their views known, he said.

Legislature Chairman John Walchli agreed. "I hope we get plenty of input. I hope we don't vote on it that day. I'm open to changes in the document."

Graffrath and Legislator Curtis Corkey, R-Almond, voted against the public hearing, which is scheduled for 2 p.m. April 10, immediately before the board's next meeting. Common practice calls for the Legislature to vote one meeting later on matters discussed at a public hearing.

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