Earlier this month, Mississippi legislators passed a bill banning direct, in-person sales of electric vehicles within the state. It wasn’t a close vote — 75 percent of the state’s senators wanted the bill passed. But Mississippi residents who live in the 21st century, and who want to see the archaic, scam-laden, needless middlemen that are dealerships dead, still held out hope: Governor Tate Reeves, a small-government conservative, could veto the anti-consumer legislation.
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Of course, he didn’t. Despite calls for a veto coming from within his own Republican house, the governor — who has received over $120,000 in political contributions from dealerships and dealer advocates — signed H.B. 401 into law on Tuesday. Electric vehicle makers will now be held to the same 53-year-old restrictions as traditional auto manufacturers, and be barred from owning their own physical points of sale in the state.
After signing the bill, Reeves tweeted that he “recognize[s] that innovation in this industry is inevitable. And with innovation comes new companies with new business models.” Despite the recognition of a changing world, however, Reeves elected to stick with the legislation that’s older than he is. In his words, “That’s fair!”
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Members of Reeves’ own party have criticized the bill as protectionism for dealerships. Joey Fillingane, a Republican state senator, put it bluntly to the Associated Press: “Maybe we just like being last all the time. Maybe it’s a badge of honor — we’re the last ones to change.”
The new law does include two caveats, two ways for carmakers to directly sell their vehicles in the state. The first is online sales — H.B. 401 has nothing to say about digital storefronts, where buyers can pick their car from their computer. The second is odder: Companies that directly own one dealership, have owned a dealer license since August of 2021, and only sell electric vehicles, can keep doing their business unimpeded. So far, it appears only one establishment meets these criteria: A Tesla store in Brandon, Mississippi.
By ignoring his own party’s calls for a veto, Governor Reeves has condemned his constituents to an archaic, anti-consumer dealership system. With any luck, this one won’t also last 53 years.