JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves signed into law a bill on Tuesday that would restrict electric automakers from selling cars in person unless they open authorized dealerships.
Defying calls by some Republicans in the legislature to veto the measure, Reeves enacted House Bill 401, introduced by Republican Rep. Trey Lamar of Senatopia. The law would force electric car companies like Tesla and Rivian to sell vehicles through franchises rather than company-owned stores, which is the way they currently operate.
About 200 small businesses in communities across our state are seeking assurances that big manufacturers can’t just destroy their businesses. that’s fair! Reeves, who is Republican, said in a statement posted to social media. “I also recognize that innovation in this industry is inevitable. And with innovation, new companies come up with new business models. I am committed to finding long-term solutions – in an ever-changing market. ”
The bill does not restrict the sale of electric cars, as people can buy them online. But if they want to buy an electric car themselves, they’ll have to head to the only Tesla store in the state in Brandon, which will be allowed to stay open under the new law. Neither Tesla nor any other electric car company has been able to open a new brick-and-mortar location to sell the cars unless it enters into a franchise agreement.
Before the bill passed by a bipartisan vote of 39-13 on March 3, the bill sparked bipartisan debate. among Republican lawmakers. Opponents said it would interfere with the auto market and prevent electric car makers from bringing new technology and jobs to the country. Supporters said the law would ensure all auto manufacturers, regardless of their business model, adhere to the same rules.
Republican Sen. Bryce Wiggins, R-Pascagoula, had hoped Reeves would veto the legislation. Lawmakers had aimed to lure Tesla to the Mississippi Gulf Coast, an area Wiggins calls the state’s economic engine.
“In today’s world, if you don’t innovate, you lose. We as a country can’t afford to lose,” Wiggins told The Associated Press on Tuesday. “My vote against the bill was a vote for capitalism, competition and innovation, not protectionism.”
Michael Goldberg is a member of the Associated Press/Reporting for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that puts journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercover issues. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/makergoldberg.
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