Greenwald Op-Ed: On Tesla, driving solutions for New Jersey

Burlington County Times
June 8, 2014
Link to original

In New Jersey, we pride ourselves on supporting innovation and entrepreneurship—two values that have been fundamental building blocks in the history of our state. Leading minds like Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein have made the Garden State their home, contributing significant advances to our society from within our own state’s borders. That tradition continues today, as New Jersey is home to top-flight institutions of higher education, a thriving pharmaceutical and biotechnology research sector, health care institutions doing cutting-edge research and trials in cancer treatments, and one of the most highly educated workforces in the country. That is why I was alarmed several months ago when I learned that the Motor Vehicle Commission had issued a decision that undermined this competitive, innovative, and entrepreneurial spirit.

Tesla Automotive, Inc., is an innovative company that produces purely electric, plug-in vehicles—representing the cutting edge of efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in automobiles. The engineering, style, and safety ratings of Tesla’s Model S have drawn rave reviews from consumers and industry-watchers alike. Indeed, when Consumer Reports turned its scrutiny on this vehicle, it won 99 points out of a possible 100, ranking as the top car for 2014.

But Tesla isn’t just any company offering an innovative product. Significantly, Tesla currently operates two facilities in New Jersey—creating jobs, supporting our communities, and offering their innovative products directly for sale to New Jersey consumers. Simply put, this is precisely the kind of entrepreneurial spirit New Jersey should seek to encourage and develop within our borders.
Yet in March, the MVC limited the ability of Tesla to compete in the New Jersey market for automobile sales. While the ensuing months have seen a great deal of overheated rhetoric and cable news sound bites about who is at fault, one thing is clear to me: the Legislature can and must act to preserve its intent to encourage innovation in the automobile industry.

I recently introduced legislation along with my colleague Assemblyman Timothy Eustace to correct the MVC’s decision. This legislative effort will strengthen our state’s automobile industry, create jobs, promote innovation and keep Tesla in operation in New Jersey.

Moreover, my legislation represents a true compromise that advances New Jersey’s public policy interests. Significantly, the bill addresses the valid public safety and consumer protection concerns that have been raised throughout discussions on this issue. Tesla will be required to operate at least one service facility in the state, while being permitted to return to business in New Jersey at up to four licensed locations. Indeed, this legislation represents a common-sense effort to come together and strengthen our state’s auto industry, create jobs, promote innovation, encourage environmental protection, and accommodate consumer concerns.

Governor Christie's administration failed in this instance and then punted to the legislature. The bill I have sponsored with Assemblyman Eustace provides a solution—a compromise that delivers a win-win for New Jersey. The Legislature should pass this bill and the Governor should sign it without delay.

Louis Greenwald (D-Camden/Burlington) serves as the Majority Leader of the New Jersey General Assembly

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