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Ind. Rep on so-called 'Tesla bill': 'It's not about Tesla'

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Posted at 2:49 PM, Feb 01, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-01 16:56:08-05

INDIANAPOLIS -- After nearly two hours of discussion and public input, Rep. Ed Soliday (R-04) had one resounding thing to say about his so-called "Tesla bill."

"It's not about Tesla."

Soliday decided to delay the vote for his controversial bill at Wednesday's meeting of the Indiana House Committee on Roads and Transportation.

The bill, HB 1592, would prohibit car manufacturers from selling directly to the public, flying directly in the face of Tesla Motors, an electric car company that has a store in the Fashion Mall at Keystone. 

MORE | Read the full bill here

If passed into law, it would make it more difficult for Tesla to sell cars in Indiana, since the company sells directly to consumers. Proponents of the bill, like Soliday, say it protects dealerships from auto companies getting bought out by overseas companies and selling the cars directly, potentially putting the dealerships out of business. They also say dealerships give back to the community in ways Tesla can't, like community service and closer relationships with their customers.

The bill's opponents say it's aimed directly at Tesla and is intended to discourage the growth of the electric technology Tesla uses. Some more staunch opponents of the bill say it was written with the support of General Motors, something Soliday seemed to take offense to.

"Contrary to the internet and some of the testimony, GM is not running this bill," Soliday said. "It is not the author of this bill. I have not talked to General Motors in over a year."

Soliday said he has no problems with Tesla's vehicles or the technology, and admonished one man who commented that Indiana was anti-technology. 

More than 20 people gave public comment during the meeting, with some for and some against.

The manager of the Tesla location in the Keystone mall, Rachel Dotson, spoke first.

She told the story of a 12-year-old boy who comes into her store every Friday, enamored with the technology the electric cars are equipped with.

The CEO of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Fort Wayne, Joe Jordan, was in support of the bill. He spoke to how much the local auto dealerships have helped non-profits and charities in his city.

A representative from Tesla Motors, Diarmuid O'Connell, also commented. He traveled from California to represent the company.

He said the bill would "restrict Tesla's growth in the state," and have a "chilling effect, particularly in the sector of innovative companies." Many members of the committee asked O'Connell questions about the company and how it operates in the state. 

Soliday gave his reasoning for the bill and said whatever happens, it will not be the end of the issue.

The bill "preserves a semblance of free market," Soliday said. "At the same time, it maintains loyalty to those provided jobs and invested billions. It's easy to say 'The world just changed and that's too bad for some folks.' We're not trying to punish any company."

The committee plans to meet again Thursday at 8:30 a.m.