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Letter from Mike Spagnola: Changing the Power Dynamic

Letter from SEMA CEO Mike Spagnola February

By Mike Spagnola

Those who follow politics know that by February state legislatures across the United States are fully underway. This is an especially important topic for SEMA members, who frequently want to know what our association is doing to effectively engage government leaders and bring about positive outcomes for our industry. Seeing an increase of legislative and regulatory overreach, many are concerned about the specialty automotive industry's future.

SEMA members will be pleased to know that their association is forcefully addressing this issue and launching new programs to level the playing field and protect and advance this industry's interests. You'll be hearing more about one example, SEMA's new SuperPAC, which effectively supported several state legislative candidates favoring the repeal of Virginia's recent internal combustion engine (ICE) ban.

We believe our industry's best is a strong offense, and with the SuperPAC we'll play a bigger role in elections than we ever have, bringing the American consumer along with us. We will not shy away from forging a political landscape favorable to our businesses. This year, you'll see us combatting ICE bans at the state level across the nation.

And that's just the beginning. For 20 years, the environmental lobby has been slowly chipping away at issues affecting our industry, including land use. A recent Bureau of Land Management (BLM) ruling effectively deprived off-road enthusiasts access to more than 300 miles of trails in Moab, Utah. This ruling denies the good our industry does, from trail maintenance and cleanups to the Tread Lightly! program and more. We've joined the Off Road Business Association (ORBA) and other allies to fight this ruling. Increasingly, we're tackling such issues at the state and federal levels, legislatively and in the courts.

But even as we aggressively pursue favorable legislation and court decisions, we intend to foster good relationships with open-minded government officials. Positively effecting change means winning allies, which often involves education. Many are unaware of the good we do for consumers and the role we play in automotive innovation. For example, many of the safety systems we take for granted in cars today originated in racing, and aftermarket invention continues to make huge strides toward cleaner performance. 

Part of our strategy is positioning our industry to be emissions and safety-compliant through education and technical assistance from the SEMA Garage. We're supplying the tools and data that our members need to propel our industry into the next generation of automotive innovation. And we're spreading the message that the people researching and delivering the solutions our leaders seek are often their neighbors working right here in this industry.

That's also why we're building bridges with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the California Air Resources Board and other regulators to create more certainty for our companies where we can. Additionally, we're stepping up our educational outreach to legislators from state to state and in Washington, D.C. Too frequently, they only hear from one side on these important issues, and we will correct that. In the end, relationships matter, and we will secure them through education, communication and assertive advocacy.