SEMA News—April 2013
LEGISLATIVE AND TECHNICAL AFFAIRS
By Steve McDonald
Law and Order
Arkansas Racing Facilities: SEMA is supporting Arkansas legislation to require the consent of only 38% of property owners and registered voters within three miles of a proposed motor-vehicle racing facility before construction of the facility can begin. Currently, construction requires the approval of 75% of property owners and voters.
California Legacy License Plates: Last year, legislation was enacted to establish the California Legacy License Plate Program. Under the new law, the DMV will create and issue a series of specialized license plates that replicate plates from the state’s past. The plates are now available for pre-order using a form available on the DMV website. The plates cost $50 for non-personalized or personalized plates. The law specifies that 7,500 applications must be received by January 1, 2015.
Colorado Emissions: Legislation has been introduced in Colorado to extend the emissions-inspection exemption to vehicles that have not yet reached their 10th model year. Current law exempts only vehicles that are four model years old or newer. The SEMA-supported bill would also exempt previously registered motor vehicles that have never failed an emissions-control inspection and create a senior citizen hardship exemption whereby a senior citizen may register one motor vehicle without obtaining an emissions inspection.
Connecticut Property Taxes: SEMA is opposing legislation to eliminate a provision in the Connecticut statutes that allows antiques, rare or special-interest motor vehicles to be assessed at a value of no more than $500. Under the bill, valuation of these vehicles will be done in the same manner as all other motor vehicles in the state. Vehicles in Connecticut are taxed by the municipality in which they are registered, and rates vary by municipality. The municipality calculates the owner’s tax liability for a particular vehicle by multiplying the “mill rate” by 70% of the vehicle’s true and actual value. Tax assessors are looking to target motor vehicles for additional revenue at a time when it appears that property taxes are increasing for many Connecticut citizens on other taxable property.
Maine Tire Size: Legislation has been introduced in Maine to remove a provision in the law that requires the overall diameter of motor vehicle tires be within 2 in. of the sizes recommended by the vehicle manufacturer. The Maine Motor Vehicle Inspection Manual already requires a vehicle to fail inspection if a tire contacts any part of the body of the vehicle. This bill provides that a vehicle must still comply with applicable frame-height requirements that vary according to gross vehicle weight rating. Because tire size will affect frame height, frame-height limits can already effectively regulate against inappropriate tire size.
Maryland License Plates: Legislation has been introduced in Maryland to require the issuance of only a single license plate for motor vehicles. The bill, favored by state hobbyists, requires that the single registration plate be attached on the front of tractors and on the rear of all other vehicles. For vehicles required to display two registration plates, a second bill provides that the front plate may be stored inside the vehicle if the vehicle was manufactured without a means to secure and display a front plate.
Missouri License Plates: Legislation has been introduced in Missouri to require the issuance of only a single license plate for motor vehicles. The bill also applies to personalized plates. If enacted into law, the measure would allow vehicle owners to obtain a second plate under limited circumstances (e.g., certain property-carrying commercial motor-vehicle applicants can request two plates). Among other things, the measure would save money, conserve resources and bring Missouri in line with other states that have moved to a single-plate requirement.
Montana Year-of-Manufacture Plates: Legislation to allow the owner of a motor vehicle, trailer, semitrailer or pole trailer manufactured in the year 1948, 1949 or 1950 to display a single original Montana license plate that is affixed to the rear of the vehicle was approved by the House of Representatives. Under the bill, the original Montana license plate must be legible and must bear the year that matches the year in which the vehicle was manufactured. The Montana Senate will next consider the bill.
Montana Inoperable Vehicles: Legislation to provide a limit on the number of inoperable motor vehicles allowed to accumulate on private property under “community decay” laws has been introduced in Montana. Under the bill, more than three “junk vehicles” on private property would constitute community decay. In Montana, a “junk vehicle” means a motor vehicle, including component parts, that is discarded, ruined, wrecked or dismantled; is not lawfully and validly licensed; and that remains inoperative or incapable of being driven. Even vehicles that are permanently registered but meet these criteria are considered junk vehicles. The bill establishes no provisions that would enable vehicles located out of public view to avoid being classified as junk.
Nebraska Headlamps: SEMA is contesting legislation introduced in Nebraska to require headlamps to be “clear or of a white color” without further requiring that they comply with U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) standards regarding lighting equipment. Under the DOT standard, it is possible to design a headlamp that emits a light that is perceived as having a blue tint but which nevertheless remains within the boundaries that define “white.”
New York Wheels: SEMA is again opposing legislation to require vehicle identification numbers (VIN) on the wheels of motor vehicles assembled or sold in New York. All wheels sold in the United States generally comply with industry standards, which include markings with the wheel manufacturer’s name, trademark or symbol, date of manufacture and manufacturer’s part number or code. Wheels are already identifiable without imposing a VIN-marking burden. Both Congress and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) have determined that wheel markings of the type contemplated by this bill would impose a huge burden on the wheel makers, automakers and dealers. In addition, as noted, wheels already have distinguishable markings.
New York Historic Vehicles: SEMA-supported legislation has been reintroduced in New York to provide that historical-vehicle owners pay only a one-time registration fee of $100 upon initial registration. The bill was approved by the full Senate last session but died in the Assembly when the legislature adjourned for the year. Under New York law, a historical motor vehicle is either a vehicle manufactured more than 25 years ago or one which has unique characteristics and that is determined to be of historical, classic or exhibition value. The reduced registration fee would be available to owners of historical vehicles owned and operated as exhibition pieces or collectors’ items and used for club activities, exhibits, tours, parades, occasional transportation and similar uses. The $100 one-time fee would replace the current annual fee of $28.75.
Vermont Exhaust Systems: A bill to ban motor vehicle exhaust systems that increase noise levels has been reintroduced in Vermont. Under the bill, violators would not pass the state’s required inspection and would be subject to fines. The measure does not provide an opportunity for vehicle hobbyists to install and use exhaust systems that meet an objective decibel limit under a fair and predictable test and would make it difficult for hobbyists to replace factory exhaust systems with more durable, better-performing options.
Virginia Restoration Projects: Legislation containing a SEMA amendment to totally exempt from the license tax vehicles and parts cars stored on private property for the purpose of restoration or repair was approved by the House of Delegates. The license tax is applied to vehicles that do not display current license plates. Under the bill, vehicles stored within a structure would remain exempt from the tax. The Virginia Senate will next consider the bill.
Virginia License Plates: Pressured by opposition from the state’s law enforcement community, Virginia legislation to reduce from two to one the number of license plates furnished by the DMV to registered motor vehicles was pulled from consideration by the bill’s sponsor. Under the bill, the DMV would have required the single plate to be attached to the rear of the vehicle. The bill was stricken by a unanimous vote of the Senate Transportation Committee and is unlikely to return this session.
Washington Inoperable Vehicles: A version of SEMA-model legislation to prohibit cities or towns from enforcing an ordinance, development regulation, zoning regulation or administrative practice that prevents automobile collectors from pursuing their hobby was approved by the Senate Governmental Operations Committee and Rules Committee. Under the bill, junked, wrecked or inoperable vehicles stored on private property would require only screening from public view. Six or fewer vehicles that are 30 years old or older, including one parts car, would be permitted for hobby-vehicle restoration as long as restoration is an ancillary use of the property. The full Washington Senate will next hear the bill.
Wyoming Registration Fees: SEMA-opposed legislation to increase annual vehicle registration fees by $10 for passenger vehicles and double registration fees for non-commercial trucks died in the Wyoming House of Representatives. Under the bill, non-commercial trucks subject to the doubled registration fees would have included personal pickup trucks. Also, the measure made no special exception for antiques, custom vehicles or street rods that constitute a small portion of the vehicle fleet, are infrequently operated and are deserving of lower registration fees.
Johnson Valley OHV Area: An estimated 60,000 enthusiasts and participants attended the seventh annual “King of the Hammers” in early February. It is the largest off-roading event held at the Johnson Valley California OHV Recreation Area. SEMA is working with the Off-Road Business Association and a coalition of other land-use advocacy organizations to ensure that the land remains open to organized and individual off-highway vehicle (OHV) pursuits. The Marine Corps wants to expand its base at Twentynine Palms to include ownership of nearly 147,000 acres of adjacent land in Johnson Valley in order to conduct large-scale training exercises for one or two months a year. The OHV community is urging the Marines to obtain special-use permits from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, which owns the land. The OHV community petitioned the White House for support of the special-use permit approach. More than 25,000 signatures required for an official administration response were received in just two weeks. The community is now awaiting a White House response. The Marines are required to submit a study to Congress by April 2, 2013 on how they might share the land with the OHV community.
E15 Ethanol: A federal appeals court dismissed on technicalities a lawsuit that challenged the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) authority to permit the sale of 15% ethanol (E15) content in gasoline for ’01 and newer model-year cars and light trucks. The case may be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. SEMA continues to oppose the sale of E15 gasoline. Many older cars were not constructed with materials to counteract ethanol’s ability to absorb water and cause corrosion. E15 can also burn hotter than E10 gasoline and cause damage to certain high-performance specialty parts. The EPA has approved the sale of E15 for use in ’01 and newer vehicles while making it illegal to fuel older cars, motorcycles and other motorized equipment. However, the EPA is requiring only a gas-pump warning label instructing unsuspecting consumers that it is “illegal” to fill those products with E15. SEMA has joined with a number of other trade associations in seeking to enact legislation to repeal the E15 rule.
Minimum Sound Level for Electric Cars: The NHTSA has issued a proposed rule that will require hybrid and electric vehicles to make a minimum level of sound in order to alert pedestrians and bicyclists of their presence. The automakers would have a wide selection of choices when creating a sound. The sound would need to be detectable over a range of street noises when the vehicle is moving under 18 miles per hour. At 18 mph and above, the vehicle should produce sufficient sound on its own to be heard.
Home Office Deduction: The Internal Revenue Service has announced a simplified option for deducting the costs associated with having a home business office. The new optional approach is based on the amount of square feet being used for business purposes by the taxpayer. If it is 300 sq. ft. or less, the taxpayer can claim a deduction of $5 per square foot (up to $1,500 per year). The existing approach is to fill out Form 8829, which may require complex calculations of allocated expenses, depreciation and carryovers of unused deductions. Under the new option, taxpayers can still claim allowable mortgage interest, real estate taxes and casualty losses on the home as itemized deductions on Schedule A, but they cannot depreciate the portion of the home used for business. These deductions need not be allocated between personal and business use, as is required under the regular method. Current restrictions on the home office deduction, such as the requirement that a home office must be used regularly and exclusively for business, still apply under the new option, which is available starting with the 2013 tax return.