Michigan Lawmakers May Ban Tesla Without a Fair Fight

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Kevork Djansezian/Getty Image

In the latest chapter of what Tesla called “a game of whack-a-mole in every state,” Michigan lawmakers approved a bill that would effectively ban direct sales by Tesla throughout the state if Gov. Rick Snyder adds his signature to legislation on his desk. According to a report by Crain’s Detroit Business, the nearly unanimous vote came immediately after language banning Tesla was added as an amendment to the bill. The electric vehicle maker may confront its next ban though Michigan lawmakers never debated — and may not even know — the bill’s contents.

An overnight legislative process

Crain’s reports that anti-Tesla language only appeared on the bill after it reached the Michigan State Senate on October 1. After passing unanimously in the Senate (38-0) the following day, the bill returned to the House and passed 106-1 without a debate. Within approximately 24 hours, the elements that will prevent Tesla from operating in Michigan never were debated or even recognized by state legislators.

Conspiracy theorists will argue there are no accidents when it comes to Tesla and auto dealer interests in Michigan, home to Motor City, U.S.A. Following resistance to the Tesla sales model by the auto dealer lobby in numerous states, a ban of the electric vehicle maker in Michigan was possible, if not inevitable. Nonetheless, the path of the Michigan legislation was especially suspect.

Less than 48 hours before the anti-Tesla amendment entered the picture, there was no mention of the automaker. As a result, many who approved the law had no idea Tesla or its business model was in jeopardy.

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Resistance from Tesla and Michiganders

Tesla reached out to the Gov. Rick Snyder’s office soon after the fast-tracked bill passed both houses. According to Auto News, an official from the Palo Alto-based automaker described the exchange with the governor’s staff as “open and productive,” remarking that Tesla primarily wanted the issue debated “in the light of day” rather than snuck in through a legislative back door.

Daniel Crane, a law professor at the University of Michigan, wrote a letter to Snyder’s office asking for a veto of the bill in order to (at the very least) give it a better procedural track through the legislature. Crane has been an unpaid proponent of Tesla in the automaker’s quest to change the existing auto dealer sales model. Crane’s letter to Snyder noted that car dealers “…should not be able to get away with sneaking amendments into bills at the last minute in a way that precludes fair and open discussion…” of the issues.

Snyder has until October 21 to sign the bill into law or veto it and open a debate that never happened between Michigan lawmakers. According to Crain’s Detroit Business, spokepeople for Democrats in both the Michigan House and Senate said their caucuses did not know of the bill’s implications for Tesla. In an election year with Snyder’s seat on the line, it is unclear whether Tesla will ever get that day in the sun.

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