Just over a year ago, the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (NJMVC) used powers granted to it by the office of the New Jersey Governor to vote unanimously to change the way in which automotive dealers were regulated in the Garden State, revoking the dealer license of Tesla Motors and making it impossible for the Californian electric automaker to operate its Tesla Stores within state boundaries.
With inherent control over all regulatory matters pertaining to the automotive industry in state, the NJMVC was able to make those changes without public consultation and without passage through the New Jersey Assembly or New Jersey Senate, causing an uproar among electric car advocates and Tesla owners alike. And when state Governor Chris Christie upheld the actions of the NJMVC in a public town hall meeting by blaming Tesla and the NJ Legislature for the regulatory change, he challenged both houses to “put a bill on my desk” if they opposed the way in which Tesla was being treated.
Yesterday a pair of bills which sought to do just that — Assembly Bill A3216 and Senate Bill S2098— took their penultimate step to becoming law when the New Jersey Senate passed S2098 by a majority of 30-2 with no debate.
Republican New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who now has 45 days to sign the law or veto it, is the final hurdle to New Jersey reinstating Tesla’s dealer licenses and allowing direct-to-customer sales in the Garden State.
Rather than allowing all automakers to sell their cars direct to customers through automaker-owned dealerships — something powerful auto dealer associations would vehemently oppose — A3216 and S2098 , if passed into law by the Governor, would create an exemption to existing auto dealer law to allow “certain zero emission vehicle manufacturers to directly sell motor vehicles to consumers and requires them to operate service facilities.”
While Tesla Motors is not mentioned by name in the pair of bills, it is the only automaker in the U.S. today which could make use of the intentional loophole.
One of several bills proposed in response to Christie’s defence of the NJMVC, A3216 — sponsored by New Jersey Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald and New Jersey Assemblyman Timothy Eustace — received bipartisan support on its journey through both lower and upper houses. Introduced on May 15 last year to the New Jersey Assembly, A3216 took a month and a day to unanimously pass the Assembly 77 votes to 0.
Its sister bill, Senate Bill S2098, spent the past nine months passing through the New Jersey Senate and was passed to a general Senate vote last week after being unanimously approved by the Senate Commerce Committee.
With that general Senate vote now passed, both bills can now be signed into law by Gov. Christie.
Just over a year ago, Gov. Christie had said that “If Tesla wants to change [the NJMVC regulation] they can go to the 120 members of the state legislature and change the law,” adding that “if the law changes, I’m happy to enforce the new law and let Tesla operate here.”
Now that law has passed both houses, it’s time for Gov. Christie to make good on that promise. Watch this space.
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