- Associated Press - Saturday, June 3, 2017

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Tesla enthusiasts are urging Gov. John Bel Edwards to veto legislation the electric car company says will threaten future sales of the vehicles in Louisiana.

Edwards spokesman Richard Carbo tells The Advocate (https://bit.ly/2rw7FcB ) the Democratic governor hasn’t made a decision on whether he’ll sign or veto the bill, which quietly won unanimous approval from the House and Senate last month.

The bill originally made it easier for law enforcement agencies to purchase armored vehicles. But Tesla leaders say an amendment added by the House could make them unable to sell cars in Louisiana in the future.

The electric car brand is sold through a direct-to-customer model, rather than the franchise dealership relationships that other auto manufacturers use. The amendment strips language in law that allows limited exemptions to a state ban on manufacturer-to-consumer sales.

Tesla plans to open a service center in New Orleans, and the company has embarked on an effort to open more Apple store-like showrooms across the country.

“Special interests like auto dealerships and traditional auto manufacturers who are afraid of competition are trying to amend current law and ban Tesla’s operations against the will of consumers,” the company said in an email. “We hope the Governor will side with economic growth and competition over special interests and veto this bill so that we can invest in Louisiana and provide good jobs, boost the local economy and help reduce carbon emissions.”

Rep. Tanner Magee, a Houma Republican, said his amendment was added at the request of the Louisiana Auto Dealers Association and meant only to tighten the existing law.

“It’s just clarifying the language in existing law that any manufacturer, not specific to Tesla, has to have a dealership to sell cars,” Magee said. “I know everybody would like to have a business where you don’t have to worry about licensing and those things, but there’s a whole mess of reasons why you have them.”

Will Green, president of the Louisiana Automobile Dealers Association, said he also believes that existing law already prohibits Tesla from side-stepping dealers.

The bill went through two committees with no testimony against it.

Sen. Bodi White, a Central Republican who sponsored the original bill dealing with law enforcement vehicles, said he didn’t expect the House amendment to court controversy.

“The amendment, as far as I knew, was cleanup language,” he said.

White supports the amended bill and said he doesn’t expect the governor will veto it.

“Tesla can come in and get a license if they want to sell cars,” he said.

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Senate Bill 107: www.legis.la.gov

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Information from: The Advocate, https://theadvocate.com

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