The early months of 2009 are shaping up to be one of the most interesting and active periods in many years for the U.S. Congress and across the federal government. The 111th Congress will begin work in January with 53 new members of the U.S. House of Representatives and seven new members of the U.S. Senate.

This election gives SEMA the opportunity to introduce the auto hobby and our industry to a sizeable number of fresh-faced lawmakers. Along the way, SEMA will be welcoming several old friends who were previously state lawmakers.

  • Jim Risch, a Republican from Idaho who won the Senate seat vacated by the retirement of Larry Craig, has signaled his desire to work on energy and natural resources issues, which would include preserving off-highway vehicle access to public lands and holding down the price of fuel through domestic exploration and support for development of alternative sources.

  • Incoming Senators Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, both Democrats, campaigned on lowering the cost of health care to small businesses, including changing the law to allow small businesses to pool coverage and providing tax credits to offset premium payments. Containing the cost of health care has been and will continue to be a top government affairs priority for SEMA.

  • Long-time SEMA ally Bill Posey of Florida will fill the House seat vacated by the retirement of fellow Republican Dave Weldon. Bill Posey was a stalwart supporter of our industry in the Florida legislature, sponsoring SEMA-model legislation to amend the vehicle titling and registration classification for street rods and to create a new classification for custom vehicles. Bill also introduced legislation to provide an exemption from the regulations governing commercial motor carriers to vehicles occasionally transporting personal property to a motorsports facility.

  • No stranger to SEMA members in the Golden State, State Senator Tom McClintock (R-CA) has been a long-time supporter of the automotive hobby in the California legislature. McClintock was in a hotly contested race, which was decided by 622 votes. In 2004, he worked tirelessly against the repeal of the 30-year rolling emissions exemption in the state. He will now serve as the U.S. Representative for Californians living around Lake Tahoe and other northeastern areas of the state.

  • Newly elected Representatives Larry Kissell (D-NC), Betsy Markey (D-CO), Brett Guthrie (R-KY) and Steve Austria (R-NC) each come to public office from a small-business background and pledged support during their campaigns for addressing the issues confronting small businesses, from health-care reform to regulatory relief. Democrat Dan Maffei and Republican Chris Lee of New York have spoken out extensively on a pro-manufacturing agenda and government action to enhance the international competitiveness of American manufacturers.

  • Erik Paulsen (R-MN), who won the seat vacated by the retirement of Jim Ramstad (R-MN), has already taken up our cause by campaigning a 10-year extension of the research and development tax credit. This long-term extension has been sought by SEMA members and other business groups for many years to facilitate business planning and spur development of new products and technologies. 

These newly elected legislators and the rest of the freshman class represent 60 new opportunities for SEMA to tell the story of our industry to lawmakers. Constituent relationships, including hearing from “the folks back home," will play a big role in defining our message. In the weeks and months to come, SEMA’s Washington staff will be reaching out to our members across the country to help us develop these new relationships.

The new lawmakers will also be encouraged to join the Congressional Automotive Performance and Motorsports Caucus, which helps raise the industry’s profile on Capitol Hill.

For more information on SEMA’s efforts in Congress, visit

For details about SEMA’s Political Action Committee (SEMA PAC), contact Jason Tolleson at

For details about SEMA’s legislative activities, contact Brian Duggan at