This column is by Scott Lambert of Mendota Heights, Minn., president of the Minnesota Auto Dealers Association, which represents 375 franchised new-car dealers across Minnesota.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi once famously said of a complicated piece of legislation that lawmakers would have to pass it to find out what was in it. Unfortunately, Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz is taking us over that same cliff.

In a recent interview on the Linder Farm Network, the governor described his California car-standards initiative in terms completely detached from reality. It won’t come as a surprise that he’s rebuffed requests to talk with car dealers who’d be impacted.

Even though Gov. Walz has been promoting the idea of installing the California car rules here in Minnesota for nearly two years, he seems to have even the most basic concepts of the idea completely wrong.

For instance, he described California car rules as an “example that was used that allowed states to craft around the Clean Air (Act) their own emissions standards.” He also said, “Other states build off (California). We’re not under any obligation to follow where they’re at.”

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Scott Lambert is president of the Minnesota Auto Dealers Association
Scott Lambert is president of the Minnesota Auto Dealers Association

That’s not correct, Governor. Under federal law, there are only two paths a state may take: federal emission standards or California emission standards. States are not allowed to “build” or “craft” their own standards. Under the governor’s proposal, the California Air Resources Board has written the rules Minnesota would follow now and in the future. Gov. Walz and Minnesota would have no input and no ability to amend these rules.

Gov. Walz goes on to say, “Telling people they weren’t going to be able to buy an internal combustion engine car is false.”

Well, California Gov. Gavin Newsome signed an executive order in 2020 mandating the sale of only new electric vehicles by 2035. The California Air Resources Board has publicly said the ban will be a part of its updated rule, and, just for good measure, the California Legislature has a bill working through its process codifying the ban on vehicles with combustible engines. If that’s not proof of an upcoming ban, I’m not sure what is.

A few other head-scratchers from the governor:

“This is a free-market opportunity,” he said. No, this is an artificial mandate set by California that disrupts the free market.

“I asked two years ago for the Legislature to go through the process and enact it, but they refused to even hold a hearing,” he said. No, there was no bill introduced for the Legislature to enact or hold hearings over. The governor has simply decided to circumvent the legislative process now.

“Dealers are not obligated to carry a certain number (of electric vehicles); the manufacturers are obligated to do this,” claimed the governor. Again, no, that’s not how it works. The manufacturers will be requiring their franchisors to buy these vehicles, like they do all vehicles, and hold them for resale.

“The rule will help us build infrastructure,” Walz also said. There’s nothing in the California rule that helps build infrastructure. If the governor wants infrastructure, he should have recommended significant dollars in his budget, which he did not.

Also, “This is just part of the culture wars,” said Walz. Huh? No, Governor, this is an economically destructive policy that is going to increase the price of all vehicles by at least $1,100 (according to his own Minnesota Pollution Control Agency) and force dealers to purchase more than 18,800 electric vehicles a year (also according to his own MPCA) when there’s currently only demand from consumers for just over 3,000 a year.

Finally, from the governor: “There has been more misinformation around this, and it’s unfortunate.” Yes, Governor, you are correct, and unfortunately your administration has been the one spreading it.