Caving in to aggressive lobbying by auto manufacturers and dealers who profit handsomely from the sales of muscle cars and enormous gas-guzzlers, California politicians refused to pass legislation that would have curbed greenhouse gas emissions and made fuel-efficient SUVs, pickups, minivans, and sedans more affordable. However, the author has vowed to continue the fight and revive the legislation next year.
The Clean Car Discount Act of 2007, AB 493, is championed by Assemblymember Ira Ruskin (D-Redwood City). It remains a top priority for environmental and consumer groups, as well as socially responsible businesses and faith-based organizations. Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety has been working actively to get the bill enacted.
Auto dealers made many legislators fearful of voting for the measure. Auto dealers are extremely active and well-connected politically. They spend heavily on political campaigns, and generally back conservative candidates. They take pride in punishing lawmakers who dare to stand up for consumers and the environment.
No Republicans were willing to vote for the bill, and a handful of anti-consumer Democratic lawmakers also voiced a reluctance to vote for it, despite polls showing strong public support for the measure.
“The Clean Car Discount program is designed to ensure choice by providing that some vehicles of every type will be unaffected or receive a rebate. Over 40 percent of the 1.7 million new vehicles purchased in California each year will be eligible for a rebate, and another 20 percent will not be affected at all. Given the breadth of choice, the Clean Car Discount program will help make cleaner vehicles more affordable for every California family,” said Ruskin in his explanation of the measure.
In their attempt to kill the bill, auto dealers stooped to misleading tactics. One auto dealer, Fritz Hitchcock, President of Puente Hills Toyota in City of Industry, claimed in a letter to lawmakers that AB 493 would “penalize” disabled Californians. But in fact the bill expressly exempts persons with disabilities from having to pay any additional charges, and would have made various models that can accommodate wheelchairs less expensive.
More information about AB 493 is posted on Assemblymember Ruskin’s website, at: http://democrats.assembly.ca.gov/members/a21/
Auto interests also ran a deceptive ad in the Sacramento Bee the day before the vote. To get the scoop on the ad, check out the California Progress Report, at: