We have entered the period of the legislative calendar where bills that have not been voted out of committee or aren’t scheduled for a vote begin to get pronounced dead. Here’s the Tesla bill’s obituary.
A crusade waged by Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk to change Texas law to allow his company to sell electric cars directly to customers is on life support at the Legislature.
After getting crushed by state auto dealers at the Capitol two years ago, Musk all but declared war in the name of Tesla, assembling a deep bench of powerful lobbyists and spreading out a total of $150,000 in political contributions to dozens of lawmakers in recent months.
However, bills backed by Musk and his money-losing electric-auto firm have not just stalled in the Senate and House – where unfriendly committees have suffocated the proposals – but appear to be heading in reverse as key legislative deadlines approach.
The latest blow: the senator authoring a bill to allow Tesla to sell directly in up to 12 locations across Texas said recently that he’s abandoned plans to push the measure forward.
“We’re not looking at pursuing the bill at this time,” state Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, said.
Hancock, the senator carrying the Tesla proposal, did not elaborate on why he was burying his proposal. But his sudden cold shoulder reflects the less than enthusiastic public response the bill received in the Senate, where it sits with no champion, no joint authors and no co-sponsors. Tesla never received a hearing, and won’t unless the House moves its version of the bill over, said Sen. Troy Fraser, who chairs the committee considering the legislation.
“Even the members in favor, which were not very many, do not want to have a hearing,” said Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, who polled the committee two weeks ago on whether to hold a Tesla hearing.
In the House, Tesla’s bill is actively being worked by an Austin Democrat, but also has been met with resistance. A panel of lawmakers gave the measure a lukewarm reception at a hearing last month in which a Tesla official said the company may have to resort to taking Texas to court to get what it wants.
The House Licensing and Administrative Procedures Committee left the bill pending, and the panel’s No. 2 says he doesn’t think it has enough support to move forward.
“It’s fair to say that Tesla is dead in committee for this session,” said state Rep. Roland Guitterez, a San Antonio Democrat who serves as the committee’s vice chair and opposes the bill. “If there was a willingness to move Tesla, I think we would have taken the vote already.”
See here, here, here, and here for the background. I’ve made the comparison to microbreweries often enough that even I’m tired of it, but keep two things in mind. One is that it took the craft brewers four sessions to get a bill passed; this is only the second session that Tesla has tried. And two, the brewers built a pretty good grassroots organization to bolster their cause. That’s easier for them to do since they have far more customers than Tesla does, but it worked where the spend-tons-of-money-on-lobbyists approach didn’t, or at least hasn’t so far. Draw your own conclusions. In the meantime, I’m sure Tesla will be back again in 2017.