SEMA Members Respond to Legislative Successes and the Importance of Advocacy

SEMA News—August 2012


SEMA Members React to a Legacy of Legislative Successes

SEMA maintains an experienced government affairs staff in Washington, D.C., to further the priority policies of the SEMA membership. Whether it is protecting a niche marketplace from an unnecessary regulatory burden or expanding sales opportunities through proactive legislation, the government affairs team is dedicated to helping members succeed and prosper.

The following are just a few examples of critical legislative/regulatory issues that the government affairs office was involved in over the past several years. How do these successes impact the members? For that, we’ve asked SEMA members to respond directly.

California Exhaust-Noise Testing Program

Aftermarket Parts Laws, Aftermarket Parts Regulation, Auto Legislation, Federal Regulation Aftermarket PartsSince 2003, California has been operating a motor-vehicle exhaust-noise testing program. The program—a product of a SEMA-sponsored law—equips state motorists to fight unfair exhaust-noise citations issued by law enforcement officers. Owners can prove that their vehicles comply with state noise standards, and courts can dismiss citations for exhaust systems that have been tested and for which a certificate of compliance has been issued. Under the program, referee stations issue certificates of compliance for vehicles when tests of their exhaust systems demonstrate under SAE test procedure J1169 that they emit no more than 95 decibels.

“Any kind of arbitrary legislation that leaves the resolution of some of these types of activities to the sole judgment of a policeman or an individual is always harmful. Having a system in place that everybody can depend upon and that establishes a benchmark for all of the manufacturers to strive toward is a plus.”

—Alex Borla,
CEO, Borla Performance Industries

Cash for Clunkers

In 2009, SEMA persuaded Congress to place a 25-year limit on trade-in cars and expand recycling opportunities under “Cash for Clunkers” legislation. Under the controversial law, consumers were able to receive a voucher to help buy a new car in exchange for scrapping a less-fuel-efficient vehicle. SEMA also convinced lawmakers to permit drivetrains of scrapped cars to be recycled if the transmissions, driveshafts or rearends were sold as separate parts.

“SEMA worked to get a limit on the age of the cars affected and influenced a lot of legislators to limit the damage. The SEMA legislative and regulatory programs are among the best benefits that the association’s members receive. SEMA has done an excellent job of being proactive with legislation, and that has helped us a lot.”

—Matt Agosta,
President, Steele Rubber Products

Collector Car Appreciation Day

Aftermarket Parts Laws, Aftermarket Parts Regulation, Auto Legislation, Federal Regulation Aftermarket PartsIn 2010, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution at SEMA’s request designating the second Friday in July as Collector Car Appreciation Day. Now in its third year, the effort was undertaken to raise awareness of the vital role automotive restoration and collection plays in American society.

“Collector Car Appreciation Day helps to bring the glory of vintage vehicles to the forefront of the national news. This event helps the hobby and strengthens the entire collector-car industry. Helping lawmakers understand that the automotive specialty-equipment market creates jobs and helps keep the American economy vibrant is vital to our future success.”

—Ernie Silvers,
CEO, Egge Machine Co

Nitrous Oxide

In an effort to mitigate legislation to ban the installation of power-booster systems, including nitrous-oxide systems intended for off-road use, SEMA devised a model bill to provide for the operation of a vehicle equipped for nitrous oxide, so long as the nitrous oxide is disconnected from the engine when the vehicle is operated on public roadways. SEMA has been successful in getting the model bill enacted in multiple states and Canadian provinces.

“With SEMA’s help in educating these government authorities, a compromise bill was developed to control the use of nitrous oxide. The model bill helps our customers understand what the laws regulating nitrous usage actually are, and they are able to use this knowledge to purchase our products and operate them without fear of undue interference from the authorities.”

—Mike Wood,
Owner, Nitrous Express

Backyard Restoration

Many states and localities are currently enforcing or attempting to legislate strict property or zoning laws that include restrictions on visible inoperable automobiles and parts. Removal of these vehicles from private property is often enforced through local nuisance laws with minimal or no notice to the owner. Many such laws are drafted broadly, allowing for the confiscation of vehicles being repaired or restored. In response, SEMA drafted its own inoperable-vehicle bill that is fair to restorers while still considerate of neighbors. The model bill simply states that project vehicles and their parts must only be maintained or stored outside of “ordinary public view.”

“From 2000–2007, things really took off in the industry. Because of all the restoration parts that were developed during those times, many cars that were once considered to be only good for salvaging parts now became rebuildable cars. Through SEMA’s efforts, legislation allowed the builders to avoid confiscation of those types of cars by keeping them stored out of public view. If we had not had those extra cars for our customers, we never would have invested in the new tooling to develop more new parts. SEMA’s help allowed a lot more cars to stay in circulation, and increased visibility equals increased sales and more interest in our industry.”

—Steve Ames,
Owner, Ames Automotive Enterprises

Tire Standards

In 2003, SEMA successfully argued that bias tires should continue to be regulated under current federal testing standards and not a newly created standard that has stricter performance requirements. SEMA also persuaded California legislators to amend a bill creating a tire fuel-efficiency program to exempt limited-production tires, deep-tread snow tires, limited-use spares, motorcycle tires and tires manufactured for use on off-road vehicles from the scope of the law and subsequent regulation.

“SEMA did a wonderful job of educating potential regulators that tougher standards on the very small niche use of bias tires would cost more and could kill an industry along with thousands of jobs while creating little impact on air quality. I am proud to be involved with SEMA for precisely these reasons.”

—Corky Coker,
Owner, Coker Tire Co.

Read the complete story featured in the August issue of SEMA News.