Beshear's backing on car sought

FRANKFORT — A state legislative panel is asking Gov. Steve Beshear to sign an order to allow three-wheeled electric vehicles on most state roads though he said last week that it would be best to study the issue for consideration in the 2009 General Assembly.

Sen. Alice Forgy Kerr, R-Lexington, said the unanimous voice vote Thursday by the Interim Joint Committee on Economic Development and Tourism for Beshear to act now was not designed to politically embarrass the Democratic governor.

”No, not at all,“ Kerr said.

She said the committee made the request because ”more interest is being stimulated“ in the cars, especially an effort by Integrity Manufacturing, a manufacturing plant in Bullitt County, to build ZAP electric cars. The cars now are built in China.

Larry Cottingham, general manager of ZAP Electric Autos, told the committee that Kentucky needs to allow the cars on its roads before ZAP would consider building the vehicles in the state.

He brought a demonstration model to the Capitol to allow legislators to take a spin after the meeting.

Cottingham had recommended that Beshear call a special legislative session on the issue but now says an order from the governor would be sufficient.

He said he would like a decision soon from the governor and not have to wait until the end of the 2009 General Assembly next spring.

Sen. Dan Seum, R-Fairdale, said the cars might be built in Indiana if Beshear does not act soon to allow them in Kentucky.

”This is not a threat,“ the lawmaker said.

Seum, who has prefiled a bill with Sen. Gary Tapp, R-Shelbyville, to allow the cars in Kentucky, added that he ”would not be concerned about giving up any glory to the governor in letting him do this for the state.“

Beshear said last week that it would be more prudent to let the issue of electric cars in Kentucky ”go through the legislative hearing process rather than acting hastily before all issues are fully discussed.“

He said the use of the cars is part of the overall discussion on how his administration will address energy needs of Kentuckians.

After Beshear took that position, he was criticized on some conservative radio talk shows for blocking the electric cars.

Kentucky is one of only four states that do not allow the electric cars. Some auto industry analysts have criticized ZAP about over-promising on the performance, top speed and sales of its cars.

Dick Brown, Beshear's spokesman, said the Beshear administration ”is not shutting the door at all on electric cars.“

The governor has directed Energy Secretary Len Peters to put together a comprehensive energy plan by September that involves electric cars, Brown said. ”We anxiously await that report.“

Kerr said her committee's request for Beshear ”to do something“ to allow the cars on most Kentucky roads was a bipartisan and not political request urged by Tapp and Rep. Larry Belcher, D-Shepherdsville. Tapp and Belcher represent the county where Integrity Manufacturing is.

Rep. Joni Jenkins, D-Shively, said she hopes Beshear will quickly close the issue, and that it will not become political.