New York League of Conservation Voters President Marcia Bystryn sent an email to supporters Tuesday accusing lawmakers in the state Assembly of trying to “sneak” through a bill that would “kill the electric car by effectively shutting down Tesla.”
“Imagine if the state Legislature tried to ban the sale of iPods and other Apple Products from Apple Stores. Ridiculous, right? Well in Albany, where anything is possible, a handful of politicians trying to curry favour with the powerful auto dealers’ lobby are advancing a bill that would ban direct sales of automobiles by manufacturers in New York,” Bystryn wrote. “Adding insult to injury, while most lawmakers are working feverishly this week to get an on-time budget passed by the March 31 deadline, these cronies of car dealerships are trying to sneak this bill past clean-energy advocates.”
The bill Bystryn is referring to was sponsored by Democratic Assemblyman David Gantt and is described as dealing with “automobile manufacturers and unfair practices by franchisors.” It would ban automakers from selling cars directly to consumers without using franchise dealers. Tesla, which employs a direct sales model, has faced similar bans in other states including New Jersey where the electric car company accused Gov. Chris Christie of making a “backroom deal” with the auto dealers’ lobby after the state Motor Vehicle Commission approved a measure prohibiting direct sales on March 11.
In New York, Democratic Assemblyman David Buchwald, who represents a district that includes two Tesla stores, has emerged as perhaps the most high-profile opponent of the Assembly bill banning direct auto sales. Last week, Buchwald told Business Insider the bill had moved out of committee and could be brought to the floor for a vote. On Tuesday, Buchwald said he had not seen Bystryn’s email, but he was not aware of any attempts to fast track the bill.
“Yesterday, the bill came up as do all new bills that appear on the calendar. It comes up essentially on consent, meaning if no one objects to there being an immediate vote, the bill would be voted on. That’s the way the Assembly deals with non-controversial bills. Someone did say this bill should be laid aside meaning it just goes back into regular order,” Buchwald explained.
Because the direct sales ban was laid aside, Buchwald said he expected it would not be voted on before a “full debate.”
“That’s an important step that the bill was laid aside. It’s just a temporary step. It just meant that yesterday it did not come to a vote,” said Buchwald. “There’s enough reason to think that, when the bill comes to the floor, that there will be opportunity for a full debate. That’s very important, but my expectations are that there should be negotiations between the two sides so that, before it ever comes to a vote, I hope that the bill ends up being amended to take into account the concerns that Tesla and others have expressed.”
Bystryn’s email noted the bill was laid aside Monday. However, she said the NYLCV was aware of attempts to get the direct sales ban voted on immediately.
“NYLCV’s allies persuaded the Assembly leadership yesterday to slow down this bill for now, but we’ve just learned that its sponsors are trying to sneak it back on the agenda as early as today,” Bystryn wrote.
Gantt, who sponsored the Assembly Bill, did not respond to a request for comment from Business Insider on Tuesday.
A ban on direct auto sales has also been introduced in the New York State Senate. That bill has not yet been voted out of committee and, as a result cannot come up for a vote. However, if the Assembly bill was passed, Senate leadership would be able to move it to the floor for a vote there. Republican Senator Tom Libous, who sponsored the Senate bill also did not respond to a request for comment from Business Insider.
Lawmakers also could potentially put a direct sales ban in the annual budget, which is due to be approved by the Legislature April 1. If a ban is included in the budget it would be voted on with the rest of the budget items and could not debated separately.
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