JACKSON, Miss. (AP) – Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves signed a bill on Tuesday banning electric car makers from selling vehicles in person unless they open franchised dealerships.
Defying calls from some fellow Republicans in the Legislature to veto the measure, Reeves signed into law House Bill 401, which was introduced by Republican Representative Trey Lamar of Santobia. The law would force electric car companies such as Tesla and Rivian to sell vehicles through franchises rather than through company-owned stores, which is how they currently operate.
“Nearly 200 small businesses in communities across our state are demanding reassurance that large manufacturers can’t just destroy their businesses. It’s fair!” Reeves, a Republican, said in a statement posted to social media. “I also believe that innovation is inevitable in this industry. And with innovation comes new companies 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 in person, they’ll have to drive to the only Tesla store in the state, in Brandon, that will be allowed to stay open under the new law. Tesla or any other electric car company could not open a new brick-and-mortar location to sell cars unless they entered into a franchise agreement.
Before the bill passed on March 3 by a bipartisan 39-13 vote, it sparked an internal debate. among GOP lawmakers. Opponents said it would interfere with the automobile market and prevent electric car makers from bringing new technology and jobs to the state. Supporters said the law would ensure all carmakers, regardless of their business model, follow the same rules.
Republican Sen. Bryce Wiggins, a Republican from Pascagoula, had expected Reeves to veto the legislation. Lawmakers were aiming to attract Tesla to Mississippi’s Gulf Coast, a region Wiggins called the state’s economic driver.
“In today’s world, if you don’t innovate, you lose. We cannot afford to lose as a state,” Wiggins told The Associated Press on Tuesday. “My vote against the bill It was a vote for capitalism, competition and innovation, rather than a policy of protectionism.”
Michael Goldberg is a core member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a non-profit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercover issues. follow him on twitter twitter.com/mikergoldberg,