Mississippi passes bill restricting electric car dealerships
JACKSON, Mississippi (AP) — The Mississippi Senate gave final approval Thursday to a bill aimed at preventing electric car makers from opening new physical dealerships in the state unless they meet the same laws than traditional automakers.
The bill, introduced in the House by Republican Representative Trey Lamar of Senatobia, is now heading to Republican Gov. Tate Reeves, who has not indicated whether he will sign it. In the Senate on Thursday, the bill sparked intraparty debate among GOP lawmakers.
Opponents said it would betray conservative principles by establishing government policy that interferes with the auto market and prevents electric car makers from bringing new technologies and jobs to the state. Proponents said the law would ensure that all automakers, regardless of their business model, follow the same rules.
Tesla sells vehicles in person at a Mississippi facility that is classified as a store, not a dealership. The distinction allows the company to operate outside of state laws governing franchise businesses. According to Republican Senator Daniel Sparks of Belmont, this exception and the prospect of other electric companies taking advantage of it gives these automakers special privileges that traditional automakers do not enjoy.
“We say if you choose to have a physical dealer, you have to follow the same laws that everyone else has to follow,” Sparks said. “Please don’t tell me Tesla’s car doesn’t identify itself as a car.”
Sen. Brice Wiggins, a Republican from Pascagoula, said the “protectionist” bill came from traditional car dealerships threatened by competition from electric car makers.
Republican Sen. Joey Fillingane of Sumrall said the bill could cause Mississippi to fall behind other states in the race to attract investment from electric car companies.
“Maybe we just like to be last all the time. Maybe it’s a badge of honor – we’re the last to change,” Fillingane said. “If we’re not careful…we could be depriving our citizens of opportunities they really shouldn’t be deprived of.”
The Biden administration has encouraged the purchase of electric vehicles. That, in addition to an exception to regulations under state franchise laws, allows electric car makers to operate under a different set of rules, Sparks said.
The bill does not restrict the direct sale of electric cars, as people can buy them online. But if they want to buy an electric car in person, they would have to go to the state’s only Tesla store in Pearl, which would be allowed to stay open under the proposed new law. Tesla or any other electric car company could not open a new physical location to sell cars unless they enter into a franchise agreement.
The bill passed by a 39-13 bipartisan vote.
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