Under the Dome

Dome: Lobbyists’ effort lands McCrory in a Tesla Model S

June 10, 2013 

Tesla’s full-court-press to kill a North Carolina bill that would ban the California company from selling its pricey electric cars here put Gov. Pat McCrory behind the wheel of the $100,000 super auto at lunchtime Monday.

Tesla lobbyists in recent weeks have met with more than a dozen lawmakers in a bid to block the legislation. They usually bring a Tesla Model S for special effect and a complementary test drive.

But putting McCrory in the cockpit of a Model S on Monday was an unplanned coup.

The lobbyists, from Raleigh’s Brooks Pierce law firm, took their all-electric road show to John Skvarla, secretary of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Skvarla was so excited about the high-performance machine that he decided to drive it to the Governor’s Mansion to show McCrory.

“John came up knocking on the door,” explained McCrory spokesman Rick Martinez.

McCrory hopped in for a ride, with a state trooper behind the wheel. Before long, McCrory and the trooper switched, giving the Governor a chance to guide the sleek vehicle around Raleigh.

It’s not clear if the experience swayed McCrory’s opinion of the legislation. He has not expressed a position, Martinez said.

The bill would prohibit online car sales by sales people who are not licensed as car dealers. If enacted into law, it would be the most restrictive policy in the nation as regards auto sales. Under Tesla’s business model, customers buy the car online or by phone, then Tesla Rangers deliver the vehicle to customer.

The bill sailed through the state Senate last month, with the backing of the influential N.C. Automobile Dealers Association. But it came to a skidding halt in the state House, where key Republicans have expressed reservations about the Tesla bill and admiration for the Tesla car.

Tesla CEO and co-founder Elon Musk, who previously founded PayPal, intends to travel to Raleigh to testify before the House Transportation Committee.

Professional race car driver Leilani Munter, a Cornelius resident named by Sports Illustrated as one of the world’s top 10 female racers, has also vowed to testify.

Tesla’s Model S luxury sports sedan is Motor Trend car of the year for 2013 and recently scored 99 out of 100 points in Consumer Reports. The basic model starts at a list price of $69,900 and boasts a driving range of more than 200 miles between charges.

Jones under fire

The third district GOP House primary has not yet begun, but it is already heating up.

U.S. Rep. Walter Jones of Farmville has come under fire for missing some votes from a man who is considering challenging him, Scott Dacey, the chairman of the Craven County board of commissioners.

Dacey knocked Jones for missing a series of votes during the markup of the National Defense Authorization Act. He also said Jones was the only member of the House Armed Services Committee not present for the final vote on the annual defense funding bill.

‘Beard Caucus’ ensues

House Speaker Thom Tillis announced Sunday that he had stopped shaving and didn’t intend to start again until the session was over.

The “Beard Caucus” apparently met on Sunday (surely just a break from the hard task of finalizing the state budget) and came up with the ground rules: “Neck trims, face trims, etc. are allowed but a beard is required to be compliant. Goatees, mustaches and big sideburns will not be considered compliant.”

The Speaker did not indicate if the beard caucus was bipartisan or how the women of the House felt about the fun and games.

Staff writers John Murawski, Rob Christensen and Mary Cornatzer

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