The Mississippi Senate has passed a bill that will stop electric car companies from opening their own dealerships in the state, ensuring that the state famous for being last place in many rankings of all 50 states remains there.
There is a saying used in the US: “Thank God for Mississippi.” This is a reference to the state coming in last place in many rankings of desirability as compared to the other 49 states in the US. It typically ranks last or close to last in economic measures, poverty, quality of life, health, education, unemployment rate, and so on. So much so that other low-ranking states can at least thank the existence of Mississippi for sparing them from ranking last place in these various measures.
And so, when confronted with a rapidly growing industry – which is currently eyeing the South for billions in investment with new battery and car factories, bringing long-term job prospects and prosperity along with them – Mississippi looked at their neighbors and their last-place ranking in everything, and said: “Nah, we’re good here.”
That’s what happened today as the Mississippi Senate passed a bill banning the very same electric car manufacturers currently investing in nearby states from opening dealerships in their state.
The bill started as House Bill 401, which you can see on the Mississippi Legislature’s website (and yes, the website does use Comic Sans… yes, really). It amends Mississippi law related to car dealerships, clarifying that EV manufacturers can’t get around the state’s dealership laws, an exception that has been used by some manufacturers who have never opened a licensed dealer before.
This will stop EV manufacturers from opening any physical locations in Mississippi. There is an exception in the law carved out for Tesla, which currently operates a single location in Brandon, Mississippi.
This is the latest in a long battle over EV dealerships (mostly occurring between Tesla and other start-up EV manufacturers, who prefer to sell cars online or in their own facilities rather than working with existing dealerships) and traditional dealerships, who want to stop new EV makers from setting up their own easier sales processes – even though customers have shown much higher satisfaction from these new sales processes than with traditional dealerships.
The battle has been going on state by state for some time, though Tesla and other companies have figured out workarounds, which involve transacting cars in other states and then delivering them in the states that make it more difficult for their residents to purchase an EV.
Like in most states, the new bill came from traditional car dealers, which Republican Sen. Brice Wiggins called a “protectionist” effort.
Another senator, Republican Joey Fillingane, acknowledged Mississippi’s position and the danger that this bill poses to keep the state there:
Maybe we just like being last all the time. Maybe it’s a badge of honor — we’re the last ones to change … If we’re not careful … we could deprive our citizens of opportunities they really ought not to be deprived of.
One supporter of the bill, Republican Sen. Daniel Sparks, seemed to proudly wear that badge of honor. He stated that the bill merely makes everyone follow the same laws but then added a glib remark: “Please don’t tell me Tesla’s car doesn’t identify as a car.” Directing this statement at Tesla indicates that the bill, despite claiming to ensure equal ground, does, in fact, target Tesla. (Also, it could be noted that this statement’s use of the phrase “identify as” uses similar rhetoric as the anti-trans sentiment that is currently swirling throughout the Republican culture-war-o-sphere, which has also been echoed by Tesla CEO Elon Musk himself.)
Mississippi has no statewide electric vehicle purchase incentive but does impose an annual $150 tax on electric vehicles, far above the amount of taxation that a hypothetical similarly efficient gas vehicle would have to pay. This charge is approximately equivalent to the amount of gas taxes a similarly efficient gas vehicle would pay if it drove 100,000 miles in a year.
Meanwhile, gas vehicles benefit from tens of thousands of dollars of incentives over their lifetime, in terms of ignored health and environmental costs of pollution, which harm the health of Mississippians and everyone else in the world.