The Texas legislative session is coming to an end, and a bill that would have allowed Tesla (and other EV manufacturers) to directly sell vehicles in the state died in committee. This means that Tesla will be in the absurd position of having to ship made-in-Texas vehicles out of the state and then ship them back into Texas for buyers in the state. Texas might hold a special session but have idiotic things to focus on instead of fixing this mess. The things they did have time to pass show that the Texas legislature doesn’t really value freedom like Republicans claim.
In many states, the law requires automotive manufacturers to sell their vehicles through independent dealers instead of selling vehicles directly to buyers. Dealer associations and other apologists claim that this is done to protect consumers from getting ripped off and to provide better service, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a car buyer who agrees with that assessment. Buying a car at a dealer is one of the most hated buying experiences there is.
Some states have relaxed the law to allow Tesla and other EV manufacturers to sell directly to customers, and others have allowed some very limited exceptions to the law so Tesla can “show” vehicles instead of sell them, and allow service centers without sales. Other states, like New Mexico, still shut direct sales companies like Tesla out entirely, not allowing any presence in the state other than charging stations. This, of course, can make things expensive and difficult for people living in those states.
Tesla sure would appreciate changing the law, so that this is not required!
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 27, 2021
Texas Almost Fixed This
Texas had a bill under consideration that would have lifted these restrictions and allowed Tesla to deliver vehicles directly to customers in Texas, but the bill got stuck in committee, and now has no chance of passage before the end of the 2021 legislative session. The committees and legislative bodies were just too busy with other things they found more important. (Editor’s note: And this is not the first year this has happened.)
Unlike most states, Texas doesn’t hold a regular legislative session every year. They hold a session from mid January until around the end of may, and any bills passed become effective 91 days later (late August or early September). Once a session is over, no more laws can be made or changed until two years later unless the governor orders a special session. Special sessions can be ordered by the governor of the state, but those only last 30 days and are limited in scope to the topics the governor specifies in the proclamation of a special session.
What About A Special Session?
Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick has called for the governor to open a special session, but it appears that Texas Republicans don’t intend for the Tesla bill to be considered.
Asking @GregAbbott_TX to call a June #SpecialSession today to pass #SB29 to save girls sports, #SB10 to end taxpayer funded lobbying and #SB12 to stop social media censorship. The TxHouse killed these conservative bills that majority of Texans in both parties support. #txlege
— Dan Patrick (@DanPatrick) May 26, 2021
He is calling for the session to focus on finding ways to discriminate against transgender children, restrict the rights of social media companies, and cut back the free speech of people lobbying the legislature. These “conservative” bills are what Texas Republicans value, and it shows that their values are all mixed up.
The Texas Legislature Shows Us They Don’t Stand For Freedom
The Texas Legislature had almost four months to get bills through the state House and state Senate. Let’s take a look at the things they chose to do with that time, so we can see what was so important that they couldn’t pass the bill that would have expanded automotive freedom in Texas!
I was going to use the legislature’s website, but Dan Patrick’s Twitter was a great place to see the bills they’re the most proud to have passed.
#SB8, the Heartbeat Bill, has been signed into law, making it illegal for an abortion to be performed after a child’s heartbeat is detected in the womb.
— Dan Patrick (@DanPatrick) May 19, 2021
Despite the fact that restrictive abortion measures have always been a loser in the courts, Texas Republicans wasted legislative time to send a massive virtue signal (and, yes, conservatives are masters at virtue signaling). Whatever your personal feelings on this (mine don’t align with Republicans or Democrats), spending valuable legislative time to see if the Supreme Court will vote their way this time was a waste.
— Office of the Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick (@LtGovTX) May 25, 2021
The “Star-Spangled Banner Protection Act” requires that the national anthem be played at any event that gets any kind of public funding. Does the event happen in a stadium that got some help from public funds for construction? You’d better play the ‘Murca song, or there’s going to be hell to pay.
#SB13 — Oil & Gas Investment Protection — by @SenatorBirdwell & passed by the Texas Senate makes it clear that we stand by both our oil and gas industry workers and these job creating companies. #txlege pic.twitter.com/Y6bt9QMajD
— Office of the Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick (@LtGovTX) April 28, 2021
Don’t worry — any favors that the oil and gas industry needs get attended to quickly in Texas. It prohibits the state from doing business with any entity boycotting oil and gas companies, which means in some cases that public dollars will go to vendors who aren’t the best vendor or offering the lowest price. But it’s perfectly okay to screw the taxpayer as long as they’re doing it for those poor, poor oil companies.
You’ll notice that none of the priorities for the special session, nor the bills that Texas Republicans are most proud of, do anything to increase freedom in Texas. They want to restrict transgender kids’ ability to play sports. They want to restrict social media companies. They want to restrict abortion. They want to force sports teams to play the national anthem.
Does any of that sound like freedom to you? The soldiers and law enforcement who died (also a big theme on Dan Patrick’s Twitter) didn’t die for this, Dan.
Before anyone brings it up, yes, I’m very aware of HB 1927, which (agree with it or not) is an act that does enhance freedom to do things in the state:
#HB1927 is headed to @GovAbbott's desk! This historic bill is one of the strongest #2A rights bills ever passed. It affirms our commitment to protect the rights of gun owners and the safety of those in law enforcement.#txlege pic.twitter.com/dHkIb1jn2m
— Office of the Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick (@LtGovTX) May 24, 2021
But let’s be real. Gun rights people have been pushing for this for the better part of two decades, and Texas (a state that has a very pro-gun reputation) has had legislators who’ve pulled tricky procedural maneuvers, made excuses, and otherwise scuttled constitutional carry bills over and over and over again while other red states sailed the same bill through their legislatures. Dozens of other states passed this law before Texas did, and none of them had nearly the resistance from Republicans like what was encountered in Texas.
Even this time, in 2021, Texas Republicans tried to use procedural tactics to kill the bill, and only got around to passing it at the last minute because a great many people called and harassed them. Facing the prospect of becoming a national embarrassment among Republicans, they begrudgingly let the bill get to the governor’s desk.
Agree or disagree with the law (that’s not the point of this article at all and is not a focus area for CleanTechnica, so don’t waste time commenting about HB 1927’s merits), it shows that even when a chance comes along to enhance freedom on something that Republicans agree with Democrats on, getting them to pass even that pro-freedom bill is like pulling teeth.
Given these perverse priorities, we shouldn’t be surprised that Texas Republicans couldn’t get around to doing the right thing for Tesla and their customers. Freedom and liberty are things that people like Dan Patrick like to pay lip service to, but when it comes time to prove that they stand for freedom, they’re all excuses.
Featured image by Tesla, Jennifer Sensiba
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