Senate Committee Refuses to Hear Life-Saving “Lara’s Law”

 (Nashville, TN) – Members of the Senate Transportation Committee yesterday refused to even discuss legislation that would protect consumers from purchasing unsafe cars. Senator Mark Green of Clarksville presented Senate Bill 813 known as “Lara’s Law” to the committee for consideration. While Senator Jeff Yarbro of Nashville made a motion to consider the bill, the motion died for lack of a second.

 

“This is common sense consumer protection legislation, and it couldn’t even get a hearing,” said Tennessee Citizen Action executive director Andy Spears. “People die every year in cars under safety recalls, and we can’t get the Senate Committee tasked with keeping Tennessee roads safe to even hear a simple bill.

 

Lara’s Law is named for Lara Gass, the daughter of Jay and Gerri Gass of Clarksville. Lara died in a crash when her car’s ignition switch shut the car down and disabled the airbags. The ignition switch was part of a safety recall on GM cars. That safety issue was responsible for 124 deaths nationwide, including nine in Tennessee. The bill, sponsored in the Senate by Green and in the House by Rick Staples of Knoxville, required that used car dealers have cars with open safety recalls repaired before selling those cars to the public. Federal law already prevents the sale of new cars under recall to the public and also prevents rental car companies from renting cars under recall to the public.

 

“People are dying and this committee chose to do nothing,” said Spears. “It’s clear the Tennessee Automotive Association carries greater weight than the lives of Tennesseans. I sat with Jay and Gerri as they met individually with members of this committee. All were sympathetic yet none would even second Senator Yarbro’s motion to hear the bill and find a path forward. Jay and Gerri Gass have already lost their daughter. How many more Tennesseans have to die before we get the attention of our lawmakers?

 

Spears noted that the members of the Senate Transportation Committee have received $13,250 in campaign contributions from the Concerned Automotive Retailers PAC since 2014.

 

“Jay and Gerri Gass don’t have a political action committee,” Spears said. “The families of the other eight victims who died in ignition switch accidents in Tennessee don’t have a PAC. Citizens shouldn’t need a political action committee and a lobbyist in order to get a simple hearing on a common sense consumer protection bill. Today, the Senate Transportation Committee chose to ignore a problem that is literally killing Tennesseans. If our lawmakers won’t stand up to special interests and protect consumers, who will?”

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Tennessee Citizen Action works in the public interest as Tennessee’s premier consumer rights organization. Our mission is to work to improve the overall health, well-being, and quality of life for all people who live and work in Tennessee.

 

MORE ON LARA’S LAW:

 

The problem: Currently, used cars under a manufacturer recall may still be sold to consumers. These cars often have significant safety defects (faulty airbags, bad ignition switches) that can cause significant harm to drivers, passengers, and other motorists. Severe injuries and even death have resulted from these defects. A person driving such a car is not only putting their own safety at risk, but also the safety of anyone else on the road.

The solution: Lara’s Law prohibits the sale of a used car that is currently under an active recall. This prevents these unsafe cars from leaving car lots and becoming a danger to the buyer or to others on Tennessee roads. The simple way to protect consumers is to ensure cars under recall are fixed before they are sold.

Protecting dealers: We understand that dealers who have taken in cars that are or become under active recall are bearing the expense of keeping the cars. Our goal is to push manufacturers to do what is right: Fix the cars before they are sold. This bill provides two key protections for dealers. First, it allows dealers to move the cars by way of wholesale transfer to another dealer. This would allow a Honda dealer to transfer a used Chevy to a Chevy dealer to expedite the process of repair. Additionally, the bill provides that the dealer must be compensated by the manufacturer for each month the car sits on the lot and is not repaired. These two common sense provisions protect dealers while ensuring consumers are not sold unsafe cars.

Summary:  Lara’s Law is an opportunity to protect both Tennessee car buyers and those who drive on our roads. It’s a practical solution to a real and dangerous problem. The law protects consumers and includes provisions to protect dealers.

 

For more on consumer protection issues in Tennessee, follow @TNCitizenAction


 

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