Republicans Are Responsible For Most State Tesla Bans

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Peter Fricke Contributor
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Despite the GOP’s free-trade rhetoric, most of the states that are looking to protect auto dealers against competition from Tesla Motors are run by Republicans.

In October, Michigan became the fifth state, following Texas, Arizona, New Jersey and Maryland, to enact a law requiring cars to be sold through independent dealerships, effectively prohibiting Tesla’s direct-sale business model without mentioning the company by name.

Of those five states, four have Republican governors and three have Republican majorities in both houses of the state legislature (Democrats currently control the legislature and governorship in Maryland, and the legislature in New Jersey). (RELATED: Ohio Might be the Next State to Restrict Tesla Sales)

“Allegedly free-market, anti-protectionist Republican legislators and governors… have been doing their damnedest to protect auto dealers from the threat of competition,” Catherine Rampell claimed in an op-ed for the Daily Local News on Tuesday.

“It’s not clear what problem all these laws are trying to solve,” Rampell said, “or why allowing manufacturers to sell cars directly to walk-in customers would be so abominable,” though she speculates that Republicans are responding to lobbying pressure from the auto industry, noting that, “auto dealerships donate overwhelmingly to Republicans.”

In Michigan, Road and Track reported at the time, the law banning direct sales was actually tacked on as an amendment by a Republican state senator “at the last minute,” to take advantage of “a procedural loophole that meant the amendment never underwent public comment or debate.” (RELATED: Michigan Legislature Passes Anti-Tesla Bill)

Gov. Snyder denied that the bill created a prohibition against direct sales, “because this is already prohibited under Michigan law.” However, Road and Track noted that the bill actually contained a minor “clarifying” change to the existing law, and was applauded in a press release by General Motors.

In New Jersey, according to Power Nation, the direct-sales ban was put in place by “the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission, composed of political appointees of the Governor,” despite Gov. Chris Christie’s promise that the matter would be “put to a vote of the elected state legislature.” (RELATED: New Jersey Colludes With the Auto Dealer Cartel in Blocking Tesla from Direct Sales)

Texas Gov. Rick Perry, however, has been one of the few to challenge his state’s ban. In March, Perry suggested that lawmakers should reconsider the “antiquated” rules prohibiting carmakers from selling directly to the public, suggesting it would aid the state’s cause in its competition with Arizona to host a new Tesla factory.

Perry said it was “time for Texans to have an open conversation about this,” but the legislature proved unreceptive to his entreaties, neglecting to act on the suggestion before the end of the 2014 session. (RELATED: Gov. Rick Perry Wants Tesla in Texas)

Despite the 6,500 jobs the Tesla factory could create, Arizona lawmakers likewise demurred on lifting their state’s ban, according to Huffington Post, even rejecting a bill that would only have allowed direct sales “as long as there isn’t a dealership within 60 miles.”

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