Ohio Dealers Vs. Tesla: Sen. Patton (R) Proposes New Anti-Tesla Law

If there’s one thing we’re sure 2014 will contain, it’s a whole load more legislative wrangling between auto dealer unions associations and Tesla Motors [NASDAQ:TSLA]. And with barely two weeks in the year passed, it’s already begun.

Sen. Patton (R-Strongsville) wants to stop Tesla stores in Ohio

Sen. Patton (R-Strongsville) wants to stop Tesla stores in Ohio

Remember the devious, sneaky plot, spearheaded by Ohio Senator Tom Patton (R-Strongsville) to amend Senate Bill 137 — a bill meant to make work conditions safer for the men and women who work on Ohio’s highways — to include few paragraphs designed to prevent Tesla from selling its all-electric Model S in the state?

That amendment — AM-0443 — was defeated before the original bill passed unanimously, but now Transport Evolved has learned that the very same Senator — someone who has received more than $42,825 in campaign donations in the last nine years from pro-dealer entities — has tried yet again to get anti-Tesla legislation passed into Ohio Law.

Sen. Patton’s back-door attempt in December to introduce anti-Tesla legislation in the form of Amendment AM-0443 sought to make it illegal for Ohio to issue motor vehicle dealer license to any entity which was in any way connected to the automaker whose cars it wanted to sell.

Now his more overt attempt, in the form of Senate Bill 260, seeks to do exactly the same thing and coincides with a direct legal challenge currently being fought in the courts between various Ohio-based auto-dealer unions associations and Tesla Motors in which dealers claim Tesla is in violation of existing Ohio state law.

Talking with MediaTrackers last week, Sen. Patton said that SB260  was not an “anti-Tesla bill,” but was designed to “protect the businesses, the Ohio business, that have spent money building up their dealerships – employing Ohio salesmen, Ohio technicians, Ohio support staff, people who work here in Ohio.”

Yet Tesla’s stores in Ohio — of which there are already two — offer the same job opportunities to local people as any other auto dealer. The only difference is that their paycheque comes directly from Tesla, not from a franchised dealership.

Sen. Patton is adamant however, that Tesla’s business model is in some way dangerous, perhaps even subversive to the point of dangerous.

“Honda sells their cars through a Honda dealer network, okay,” he said. “What Tesla is trying to do is eliminate the dealer franchise agreement that we’ve established — it’s not a new business mode, it’s just a way around the existing one.”

To put this in a little context, it’s also worth noting that, according to campaign finance reports reviewed by MediaTrackers, Sen. Patton has received “at least $42,825 from state and national auto dealership owners, employees, and political action committees (PACs) between 2002 and 2013.”

tesla-london-frontWe’ll leave you to make your own minds up on what that means.

Senate Bill 260, co-sponsored by Senators Troy Balderson (R-Zanesville) and Cliff Hite (R-Findlay) has yet to be assigned to an Ohio Senate committee, but we’re expecting this particular battle between Tesla and Ohio’s auto dealer unions associations to carry on for months, maybe even years.

Given how passionately both sides feel, it’s likely Tesla’s case will eventually end up at a more senior court, quite possibly even the Supreme Court. The question is how long it’ll take to get there, and what the ultimate decision will be?

What do you think? Leave your thoughts in the Comments below. In the meantime, if you’d like to weigh in with a personal message to Ohio Governor John Kasich directly, you can do so here.

Many thanks to our friends at MediaTrackers.org for bringing us the latest twist in this ongoing battle.

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