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Tesla Drives Bipartisanship in the Maryland General Assembly

On a Sine Die that was dominated by discord over conflicting budgetary philosophies, there was a notable example of the different facets of the legislative process combining to create truly beneficial policy for the State of Maryland.  In the final minutes of last day of the 2015 Legislative Session, the General Assembly passed House Bill 235 which will allow for the direct from manufacturer sale of electric or non-fossil fuel burning vehicles in Maryland. tesla-annapolis

Traditionally, the sale of automobiles in Maryland is regulated under a multi-tiered system in which there is clear separation between manufacturing, distribution, and retail sale of vehicles.  House Bill 235, sponsored by Delegates Kirill Reznik, David Fraser-Hidalgo, and Will Smith, creates an exception to this system in order to incentivize the market for environmentally friendly and energy efficient electric/non-fossil fuel burning cars.  The legislation was requested on behalf of Tesla, a company that manufactures highly specialized, 100% electric luxury cars and sells them directly to consumers. Tesla, which currently operates in more than 30 states in the United States and internationally, is a very unique player in the automobile industry and, due to their specialized product and low production numbers (only 33,000 Teslas were sold worldwide in 2014), utilize a direct to consumer model that does not mesh with the traditional automobile sale regime employed in Maryland.  Through the legislative process, Tesla successfully sought this exception to the current regulation, which permits them to show and sell their products directly to consumers at four sites throughout Maryland.

While a business seeking an exception to certain ill-fitting regulations in order to promote sales of a new product is not an unfamiliar subject matter to the Maryland General Assembly, the passage of House Bill 235 is a great example of Maryland’s legislative process working effectively to benefit Marylanders.  Industry and business representatives from the Maryland Automobile Dealers Association, the Washington Area New Dealers Association, Tesla, the environmental community, the House of Delegates, the Senate, and the new Hogan Administration came together to create and pass fair, compromise legislation that will allow Marylanders to access this innovative product and its environmental benefits, while maintaining important consumer and industry protections in the current regulatory scheme.

After months of negotiating language which met the needs of the majority of stakeholders, the bill sponsors, the House and Senate committee chairs, the majority and minority parties, the Speaker’s Office, the Senate President, and the Governor’s Office all came together in an “all hands on deck” fashion to push the legislation through in the last minutes of the 2015 session.  On the last day of the legislative session, the bill went through several different levels of review in the House and Senate Committees and their respective chambers. The bill survived committee amendments to the number of Tesla sites that would be permitted in Maryland, floor amendments, special orders, consensus calendars, and four different legislative days in a single calendar day to be successfully passed by the General Assembly at 11:53 P.M., just minutes before the legislature adjourned.

The coordination and hard work of the Governor’s office, the bill sponsors, the presiding officers and their staffs, and each member of the Maryland General Assembly were critical to the timely passage of the legislation. The passage of House Bill 235 represents an important investment in environmentally-friendly technology, innovation, economic development and pro-business policy, and consumer interests. There is often too much focus on disagreement, competition, and partisanship in the legislative process in Maryland, but it is important to take a moment and recognize a time when everything worked as it is supposed to and created fair and balanced policy for Marylanders. Next stop for House Bill 235 is the Governor’s desk for signing.

For more information on House Bill 235, including the bill’s text, please follow the link below:

http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/webmga/frmMain.aspx?id=hb0235&stab=01&pid=billpage&tab=subject3&ys=2015RS

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