SEMA News—August 2011

Government Affairs Programs Take Comprehensive Approach

Advocating for the Industry


At the 2010 Washington Rally, SEMA member Tom Brooks (right), owner of Truckin’ Thunder, met with his Congressman, Rob Wittman (R-VA), to discuss the issues that impact his business. The opportunity for SEMA members to meet directly with their elected officials is a critical component of SEMA’s Government Affairs relationship building program on Capitol Hill. 
The laws and regulations that govern how SEMA members do business will always have a significant impact on the way automotive specialty-equipment products are made, distributed and marketed. SEMA has a proven legislative and regulatory program led by a fulltime professional staff based in Washington, D.C., that continually works on behalf of the membership. The program includes a number of components that together have resulted in a long list of successes of significant benefit to the industry.

“Our members work hard to develop their products and run their businesses. In turn, our office works hard to help them thrive in the marketplace,” said Steve McDonald, SEMA vice president of government affairs. “As the nation and our industry still struggle with a challenging economic recovery, our charge is to stay on top of every relevant state and federal matter of consequence to our membership to ensure the best possible outcome.”

The SEMA staff in Washington, D.C., tracks and analyzes legislation and regulations, both state and federal, and then advocates positions to public officials on behalf of member companies. In addition to opposing bills that would potentially harm the automotive hobby or hinder SEMA-member companies, the staff proactively pursues opportunities to enact pro-industry initiatives.

State Legislation: SEMA staff works with state legislators to overhaul existing statutes and create brand-new programs that safeguard and expand the specialty-equipment aftermarket. Over the years, the state legislative program has brought a series of significant legislative and regulatory accomplishments for the industry and the vehicle enthusiast community on issues ranging from equipment standards, registration and titling classifications to emissions-test exemptions and hobbyist rights.

State Caucus: 2011 marks the sixth anniversary of the founding of the State Automotive Enthusiast Leadership Caucus, a bipartisan group of state lawmakers with a passion for automobiles. In its daily efforts to promote and protect the auto hobby, SEMA partners with caucus members from across the country to raise the motor-vehicle hobby’s profile in state legislatures and in the public’s eyes. Approximately 515 state legislators from all 50 states are involved in the caucus.

Federal Legislation: SEMA is involved in a wide variety of issues on Capitol Hill that impact the industry, from regulatory reform to intellectual property protection and health-care coverage. Other legislative priorities include tackling energy and environmental issues in a fashion that takes jobs, safety, consumer choice and technology into consideration. SEMA also continues to pursue tax relief on measures that spur economic growth, along with permanent renewal of the research and development credit.

Federal Agencies: On the regulatory front, the SEMA government affairs office works with a number of agencies that have jurisdiction over the marketing of automotive equipment. Among others, these include the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Federal Trade Commission. Topics range from regulations governing tire-pressure monitoring systems, roof crush, side impact and electronic stability control to hazardous air pollutants used during auto painting operations and deceptive marketing practices.

SEMA Action Network: The SEMA Action Network (SAN) is a partnership of vehicle clubs and enthusiasts who unite to protect their hobby. With the support of 21,000-plus car clubs, more than 58,000 individual contacts and 217-plus publications, the SAN has an estimated reach of 36 million enthusiasts in the United States and Canada. These members have been extremely effective in amplifying SEMA’s political voice on issues affecting the specialty-equipment auto parts industry.

Congressional Caucus: Founded in 1996, the Congressional Automotive Performance and Motorsports Caucus is a coalition of lawmakers who love cars and recognize the importance of the industry to America. These members of Congress help raise the profile of the automotive specialty-equipment industry in Washington and around the country.

Political Action Committee: The SEMA Political Action Committee (PAC) is a vital component of the SEMA legislative program. SEMA PAC helps support candidates for Congress on both sides of the aisle who support our industry. Through the SEMA PAC, individual SEMA members can pool their resources to give the industry a larger cumulative voice on Capitol Hill.

Congressional Visits: Under this initiative, SEMA’s congressional relations staff facilitates meetings with a U.S. representative or senator at a SEMA-member business’ facility. Other SEMA members in that district are invited to participate in roundtable discussions on topics of interest to the individual companies and the industry.

Get Involved: While the various components of the SEMA government affairs program have resulted in great success for the industry, it is essential that all SEMA-member companies and their employees be involved as well. You can stay current on the latest laws and regulations affecting the automotive aftermarket industry by visiting and clicking on the “Government Affairs” link. Contacting your lawmaker about bills in your state legislature or in the U.S. Congress is vital to our success. Lawmakers really do listen to their constituents. So does the SEMA government affairs staff.

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