Sen. Kennedy supports grocery-bag tax while opposing direct sale of electric cars

Despite pushing a tax on grocery bags and a state carbon tax due to environmental concerns, Sen. Ted Kennedy Jr., D-Branford, voted against allowing electric vehicle makers to sell their products directly to consumers in Connecticut.

The bill to allow manufacturers, in particular Tesla, to sell electric vehicles directly to Connecticut consumers passed out of the transportation committee on March 17 by a 25-10 vote.

In addition to serving on the transportation committee, Kennedy is a co-chair of the energy and environment committee.

Dan Doyle, media contact for Sen. Kennedy, said Kennedy’s opposes the bill because he sees it as a careveout for Tesla rather than an environmental issue. “Tesla is free to open a dealership in Connecticut, there’s nothing blocking them from doing that.”

But Connecticut law dictates that a dealership must be independent from the manufacturer. So Tesla would have to contract with an independent dealership in the state in order to sell their cars. Going through an independent dealership would increase the costs of their vehicles, which already run high.

Tesla has been trying to make inroads into Connecticut for several years, but the law continues to limit sales to independent dealerships.

Connecticut is one of a dwindling number of states that do not allow Tesla to sell directly to customers. Other than Connecticut, only Michigan, Texas and West Virginia remain closed to direct sales.

New Jersey passed legislation in 2015, allowing Tesla to open four stores where the public can buy directly from the company and one service center.

New York and Massachusetts also allow Tesla sell their cars, driving some Connecticut residents over the state border to purchase the vehicles.

As of May 2016, the state reported there were 868 Teslas driving on Connecticut’s roads, all of which had to be purchased in other states.

Kennedy proposed a tax on grocery bags as early as 2015.

The grocery bag tax, introduced by the environmental committee, where Kennedy serves as co-chair, would impose a 5 cent tax on “single use” plastic and paper bags. The revenue would help fund the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s conservation efforts. Earlier versions of the bill targeted plastic bags exclusively as a source of litter, but the current proposal includes paper bags which decompose naturally.

The legislation passed out of committee by a 19-10 vote, with Kennedy voting in favor of the tax on grocery bags.

Similarly, the environmental committee raised a bill that would impose a carbon tax on companies in Connecticut. The tax of $15 per ton of carbon emissions on Connecticut businesses would increase home fuel costs by 16 cents per gallon and gasoline costs by 13 cents.

The carbon tax will only be enacted if Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island all enact similar laws, a precaution to keep businesses from jumping across the border to avoid the tax.

That legislation has not yet come to a committee vote but it is vigorously opposed by businesses and could prove unpopular with voters who already pay the highest energy costs in the nation.

A similar bill was passed out of committee in 2016 but did not come to a floor vote.

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Marc E. Fitch

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