The fate of direct-to-consumer car sales is uncertain

Electric vehicles parked outside the State Capitol building Credit: Hugh McQuaid/CTNewsJunkie

Connecticut lawmakers who roamed the parking lot of the state capitol building on Wednesday had a chance to inspect a display of premium electric vehicles, but the fate of legislation allowing direct-to-consumer sales of those vehicles remains uncertain in the Senate.

New models of Tesla, Rivian and Lucid were parked on the south side of the Capitol complex as part of an Electric Vehicle Day event. The three all-electric vehicle makers lobbied the legislature for an exemption from a state law requiring automakers to sell their vehicles through franchised dealerships.

The legislation, formerly known as the “Tesla Bill”, has been before the General Assembly for years and although a version of it was passed by the House of Representatives in 2015, it has not never been put to a vote in the Senate. Last year it expired on the Senate calendar due to inaction.

On Wednesday, the bill was again pending action in the Senate. Sen. Will Haskell, a Westport Democrat and one of the bill’s leading supporters, said Wednesday he felt momentum was building for the legislation, but declined to speculate on support among voters. House majority Democrats.

“I was thrilled to see, anecdotally, outside today, a whole group of my fellow Republicans looking at vehicles, talking to businesses that are desperate to set up shop in Connecticut and create jobs in well-paid green collar workers,” Haskell said. .

Telsa parked outside the State Capitol building Credit: Hugh McQuaid/CTNewsJunkie

Whether the bill will pass in the Senate is up to House Democratic leaders, however, and in a statement Wednesday, Senate Speaker Martin Looney said it was up to Haskell to find adequate support.

“Senator Haskell is defending this bill in the State Senate and discussing with members the merits of Senate Bill 214,” Looney said. “Once Senator Haskell indicates to our Majority Leader, Senator Duff, and to me that there is sufficient support for this bill, we plan to call him for debate and a vote if there is enough time.”

The exemption in the bill has long been contested by Connecticut franchise car dealers, who are also increasingly selling electric vehicles and argue that it would be unfair to create a loophole for a handful of manufacturers who chose not to follow the rules. .

This argument has consistently found traction with some lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Sen. Heather Somers, a Republican from Groton on the Legislature Transportation Committee, said a handful of companies had “marketed” the bill as if Connecticut banned the sale of their vehicles.

“Tesla, Rivian – they could sell here today if they wanted to,” Somers said. “Connecticut doesn’t stop them from selling here. They just don’t want to follow our franchise laws and we have dealers who have contributed almost $630 million to our state coffers who follow the system we have had for years. They sell 45 models of electric vehicles.

Although the bill has already received enough support to clear the House, Democratic leaders told reporters Wednesday they were waiting for the Senate to vote on the issue before polling their members on their support.

“We are waiting for the Senate to act and see if it has support in the Senate. Then that’s a conversation we’ll have in the House, but so far we don’t have this bill in front of us,” House Majority Leader Jason Rojas said during a briefing. a briefing at the end of the morning.

With only three weeks left in this year’s short legislative session, the Senate’s scope for action is limited. And for Haskell, who announced in January that he had chosen to attend law school rather than seek re-election, time is running out to guide the bill to the finish line. Haskell said the electric vehicle sales bill is among several priorities he hopes will pass before the end of his term.

“To be honest with you, I feel pressure on this bill and a million others,” Haskell said. “I feel like this is my last bite to eat on a whole host of public policies that I believe in deeply. I’m trying to make every second of every day left count.”