I have been following Tesla Motors for many years. They are one of the most exciting companies to start up in the past decade, producing all-electric vehicles that are attractive, powerful, and that represent a true breakthrough in technology, especially from the battery side. And they have done it largely without government assistance, to boot. No government body has had to be part of “picking winners and losers” when it comes to Tesla. They are a winner on their own merits.
But that didn’t stop Republican Joe Hune from making a last minute amendment to legislation recently signed into law by Gov. Snyder that effectively bans Tesla from selling their vehicles in Michigan since they don’t use the franchise model. From Tesla’s blog:
On October 1, the Michigan Automobile Dealers Association succeeded in passing a bill that is harmful to consumers. The bill, HB5606, was originally a single amendment to existing law designed to ensure that the car dealers can tack additional fees on to the purchase price for all vehicles (from any manufacturer) sold in Michigan. Such fees have a controversial history, are generally regarded with skepticism and have been the subject of consumer concern in other states.
Not content with enshrining their ability to charge consumers dubious fees, on the last day of the legislative session, the dealers managed to make a last-minute change to the bill in an attempt to cement their broader retail monopoly. Using a procedure that prevented legislators and the public at large from knowing what was happening or allowing debate, Senator Joe Hune added new language in an attempt to lock Tesla out of the State. Unsurprisingly, Senator Hune counts the Michigan Automobile Dealers Association as one of his top financial contributors, and his wife’s firm lobbies for the dealers.
By striking a single, but critical, word from MCLA 445.1574(14)(1)(i), the law governing franchise relations in Michigan, the dealers seek to force Tesla, a company that has never had a franchise dealership, into a body of law solely intended to govern the relationship between a manufacturer and its associated dealers. In so doing, they create an effective prohibition against Tesla opening a store in Michigan.
This amendment goes even further. It also seeks to prevent Tesla from operating a gallery in Michigan that simply provides information without conducting sales. We could even be barred from telling people about our car.
This anti-competitive behavior mirrors similar tactics in New Jersey and Missouri, where dealers have resorted to backroom political maneuvers to shore up their monopolies. The dark-of-night tactics highlight the dealers’ concerns that their arguments don’t stand up well to public scrutiny.
Rather than allowing this incredible company to compete in the market on its own merits, Republicans, led by Joe Hune and Gov. Snyder, have literally chosen them to be a “loser”.
Hune’s Democratic challenger for his state Senate seat, Shari Pollesch, called out Hune on his blatant hypocrisy on this:
Noting that Hune’s wife, Marcia, works for a lobbying firm, Democratic challenger Shari Pollesch has charged the senator with appealing to special interests.
“Of course, Sen. Hune is playing special-interest politics,” Pollesch said.
“He supports a bill that prevents school board members here in Howell from voting on a teachers’ contract because they have a relative who is a teacher, yet he has never excused himself from voting on a bill because his wife is a lobbyist.”
Howell Public Schools Board of Education members Mike and Kim Witt, a married couple, last year were prevented from voting on a teachers’ contract because Mrs. Witt’s sister was employed by the district.
“People want to know if their legislators are working for their interests or special interests,” Pollesch said.
The Michigan Auto Dealers Association for whom Hune’s wife lobbies has given Hune over $14,000 over the past 10 years.
[Gilbert] said Snyder’s move “sends a bad message” about the influence of lobbyists in lawmaking.
“To me you have to have a philosophy and you have to stick to it and you can’t let your personal circumstances compromise that,” Gilbert said.
He also criticized the powerful auto dealer lobby for battling Tesla, which wants to sell cars through “stores” instead of franchises.
“Why don’t you man up and compete like everybody else does?” Gilbert said.
Governor Snyder, Joe Hune, and all of the Republicans who voted for this legislation are hypocrites. They wail and moan about too much government regulation strangling our state’s economy and preventing companies from doing business here and then turn around and thwart one of the most exciting new companies in our country.
It’s just more clear evidence that Republicans in Michigan, with Gov. Rick Snyder leading the way, are beholden to their corporate benefactors. It’s pay-to-play politics in Michigan and, unless you have the financial resources to pay, you have very little voice.