On Thursday, the Mississippi Senate gave final approval to a bill that says electric car companies can’t open new brick-and-mortar dealerships in the state unless they follow the same laws as other car companies.
Republican Rep. Trey Lamar of Senatobia introduced the bill in the House. It is now on its way to Republican Gov. Tate Reeves, who has not said whether or not he will sign it. On Thursday, the bill started a debate among Republicans in the Senate.
Opponents said that setting a government policy that interferes with the auto market and stops electric carmakers from bringing new technology and jobs to the state would betray conservative principles.
Proponents of the law said it would make sure that all car companies, no matter how they do business, follow the same rules. Tesla has one location in Mississippi that sells cars in person. This location is a store, not a dealership.
Because of this difference, the company doesn’t have to follow state laws that govern franchise businesses. Sen. Daniel Sparks, a Republican from Belmont, says that this exception and the possibility that other electric companies will use it give these manufacturers special rights that traditional automakers don’t have.
Sparks said (as reported by AP News) –
“We’re saying if you choose to have a brick-and-mortar dealership, you have to follow the same laws that everyone else has to follow.”
“Please don’t tell me Tesla’s car doesn’t identify as a car.”
Sen. Brice Wiggins, a Republican from Pascagoula, said that the “protectionist” bill came from traditional car dealers who were worried that electric carmakers would take away their business.
Sen. Joey Fillingane, a Republican from Sumrall, said that the bill could put Mississippi behind other states in the race to get electric car companies to invest there. Fillingane said –
“Maybe we just like being last all the time. Maybe it’s a badge of honor — we’re the last ones to change.”
“If we’re not careful … we could deprive our citizens of opportunities they really ought not to be deprived of.”
The Biden administration has made it easier for people to buy electric cars by giving them tax breaks. Sparks said that electric carmakers can use a different set of rules because of this and an exception to rules under state franchise laws.
Electric cars can still be bought online, so the bill doesn’t stop people from selling them directly. But if they want to buy an electric car in person, they would have to drive to Pearl, where the state’s only Tesla store is, which the proposed new law would let stay open.
Without a franchise agreement, Tesla or any other electric car company could not open a new storefront to sell cars. The bill passed in a bipartisan 39-13 vote.