In its ongoing battle with powerful auto dealer associations and pro-dealer lawmakers across the U.S. over its rights to sell direct to customers in Apple-style car showrooms, Californian electric automaker Tesla Motors [NASDAQ:TSLA] has been awarded a little victory thanks to the New Jersey Senate Commerce Committee.
Last June, Assembly Bill A3216 — a bill sponsored by New Jersey Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald and New Jersey Assemblyman Timothy Eustace — passed the New Jersey Assembly by a total of 77 votes to 0. Its aim? To reverse the regulatory amendment hastily passed a year ago tomorrow by the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission which made it illegal for any automaker to sell direct to customers within the state and revoked Tesla’s state dealer license.
While A3216 passed the New Jersey Assembly back in June, its sister bill — Senate Bill S2098 — has spent the past few months in the state’s Senate Commerce Committee. Yesterday, that committee passed the bill on to the Senate floor for its final vote, showing its support of the free market principles currently being prevented by last year’s regulatory change.
“We support the bill because we are a free market advocate, and we believe when you lift restrictions on free market trade, it really helps business, it helps the consumer,” said Tony Russo, vice president for governmental affairs of the Commerce and Industry Association of New Jersey after yesterday’s decision.
“This is good for New Jersey. This is good for America,” said James Chen, Tesla’s vice president for regulatory affairs in an official statement yesterday.
It’s important to note too that the bill doesn’t just benefit Tesla Motors: it would allow any maker of ‘zero emission vehicles’ to open four outlets and a retail service centre within New Jersey’s state line.
While that currently means only Tesla Motors could make use of the legislation, it could open up an intriguing possibility for the future.
If passed by the state Senate, S2098 will then progress to the desk of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who will have a choice to either sign or veto the legislation. Shortly after the outcry following the hastily-changed regulation at last year’s meeting of the NJMVC, Christie had gone on the record in support of the NJMVC vote, saying that Tesla was “operating outside the law,” adding that “If Tesla wants to change [it] they can go to the 120 members of the state legislature and change the law.”
When he had a bill to sign that had been through the due process of the legislative passage, he indicated, he would sign it, saying that “If the law changes, I’m happy to enforce the new law and let Tesla operate here.”
Although there’s no news yet how easy the bill’s final passage through the state Senate will be, those who have supported its passage thus far are hopeful of a positive result.
With his heart still set on being a Presidential candidate in 2016 however, we’re keen to see if Christie will remain true to his promise if — as we suspect — S2098 continues its unobstructed passage through the legislature.
Watch this space.
You can also support us directly as a monthly supporting member by visiting Patreon.com.