SEMA News—June 2013
LEGISLATIVE AND TECHNICAL AFFAIRS
By Steve McDonald
Law and Order
Arkansas Motor-Vehicle Lighting:
Working with state lawmakers, SEMA helped amend legislation that originally threatened to ban any covering that reduced the visibility of required motor-vehicle lighting. Under the amendment, which was approved by the Arkansas House Public Transportation Committee, these coverings would be prohibited only when required lamps are in use. SEMA expressed its concern that the original bill could be misinterpreted to include such items as removable ornamental lamp covers, which are often used for shows, exhibitions and for street use during daylight hours.
Connecticut Antique Vehicles:
SEMA-opposed legislation to increase the age requirement for vehicles eligible for registration as “antique, rare or special-interest motor vehicles” or “modified antique motor vehicles” was approved by the Connecticut Joint Committee on Planning and Development by a narrow 10-9 vote.
Under the bill, vehicles that owners are seeking to register as antique, rare or special-interest motor vehicles or as modified antique motor vehicles would be required to be at least 30 years old.
Currently, vehicles 20 years old or older are eligible for this status and special license plates. For the purpose of property taxes, the bill also increases the maximum assessment of these vehicles from $500 to $2,500. The bill will now be sent to the Connecticut House of Representatives for a vote by all members.
Florida legislation to repeal the requirement that all gasoline offered for sale in the state contain a percentage of ethanol was approved by the House Regulatory Affairs Committee and will be considered by the full Florida House. Currently, the Florida Renewable Fuels Standard requires that all gasoline sold or offered for sale by a terminal supplier, importer, blender or wholesaler contain 9% to 10% ethanol or other alternative fuel, by volume. The bill recognizes that while the current ethanol mandate does not apply to fuel used in collector vehicles, off-road vehicles, motorcycles or small engines, there has been an inability to obtain unblended gasoline for engines that may be damaged by ethanol. An identical bill is being considered in the Senate.
The Illinois House of Representatives has reintroduced legislation allowing the state to provide information to gas stations encouraging the stations to offer E15 as an option for customers.
The bill also allows state agencies to provide information to gas stations on any financial assistance that may be available to subsidize the cost of providing E15 blended fuel
Maine Suspension Modifications:
Working with a group of Maine businesses, SEMA successfully opposed legislation that would have required the state police to authorize a person to modify a vehicle by lifting its suspension. The Maine Joint Transportation Committee did not approve the bill. Under the measure, the owner or operator of a motor vehicle with a lifted suspension would have been required to obtain a certificate from the state police and present it to an inspection mechanic at the time of inspection. SEMA argued that Maine already has established lift limits and that there was no accident data, engineering evaluations or other empirical evidence indicating a need for more stringent regulation, including increased oversight by the state police. Further, the bill gave no sense of the criteria the state police would establish for allowing installers to qualify to
Maryland Reproduction Plates:
Identical but separate legislation to require the Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) to provide, for one year, a specially designed vintage reproduction registration plate to qualifying vehicle owners was approved by the Maryland Senate and House. To fulfill procedural requirements, each bill must now be passed by the other chamber. Under the bill, to be eligible to receive a vintage reproduction registration plate, the vehicle must be a passenger, small truck, historic, multipurpose or street-rod vehicle. The vintage reproduction plate would be designed to resemble the 1910 Maryland registration plate, which has black lettering on a yellow background. The bill requires MVA to set initial registration and renewal fees.
Montana Year-of-Manufacture Plates:
SEMA-supported 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 affixed to the rear of the vehicle was signed into law by Governor Steve Bullock.
Under the new law, the original Montana license plate must be legible and must bear the year that matches the year in which the vehicle was manufactured.
New York Street Rods/Customs:
SEMA-model legislation to create a vehicle titling and registration classification for street rods and custom vehicles has been reintroduced in the New York State Senate and Assembly. The bill defines a street rod as an altered vehicle manufactured before 1949 and a custom as an altered vehicle at least 25 years old and manufactured after 1948. Under the bill, kit cars and replica vehicles will be assigned certificates of title bearing the same model-year designations as the production vehicles they most closely resemble. An identical bill has been introduced in the New York Senate.
New York, Massachusetts License Plates:
Legislation has been introduced in New York and Massachusetts to require the issuance of only a single license plate for motor vehicles.
The bills, favored by state hobbyists, require that the single registration plate be attached on the rear of applicable motor vehicles.
North Carolina Titles:
SEMA is supporting North Carolina legislation to provide for the prompt issuance of titles to owners of out-of-state motor vehicles that are 35 years old or older. Under the bill, if a required inspection and verification is not conducted by the Division of Motor Vehicles within 10 days after receiving a request and the inspector has no probable cause to believe that the ownership documents or public vehicle identification number does not match the vehicle being examined, the vehicle will be deemed to have satisfied all inspection and verification requirements and the title will be issued to the owner within 10 days.
Pennsylvania Emissions Inspections:
Legislation has been introduced in Pennsylvania to exempt from emissions inspections those vehicles registered in fifth-class counties with populations of less than 116,500 residents. The bill would impact only vehicle owners in Lycoming County, as all other similarly populated counties are already exempt.
Texas Emissions Inspections:
Legislation has been introduced in Texas to increase the emissions inspection period from an annual requirement to every five years. This bill would not affect a requirement that an emissions inspection be conducted during an initial inspection period in a county covered by testing. The measure acknowledges that it is senseless to test vehicles every year when the results demonstrate no significant air quality benefits. The idea behind creating longer inspection periods is to reduce costs while not losing appreciable emissions reductions. This strategy builds support for emissions inspection programs but also directs finite resources to where they will be most valuable in cleaning the air.
Texas Registration Fees:
Legislation has been introduced in Texas to add an additional fee of $50 to vehicle registration and renewal fees. The extra $50 would be deposited into the Texas Mobility Fund.
The measure would take effect on September 1, 2013, if the constitutional amendment proposed by the Legislature to allow the imposition of an additional motor vehicle registration fee is approved by the voters.
Virginia Restoration Projects:
Legislation containing a SEMA-drafted amendment to totally exempt from the license tax all vehicles and parts cars stored on private property for the purpose of restoration or repair was signed into law by Governor Bob McDonnell. The license tax is applied to vehicles that do not display current license plates, even those 25 years old and older. Under the new law, the exemption for all cars, regardless of age, that are undergoing restoration (for as long a time period as the restoration work requires) represents a new benefit to car owners. Vehicles stored within a structure remain exempt from the tax.
West Virginia Antique Taxes:
A bill that originally sought to increase property taxes paid by some owners of antique motor vehicles was amended and approved by the House Roads and Transportation Committee. Under the original bill, each of these cars would have had an assessed value of $5,000 for purposes of the tax, regardless of their actual value. Under the amendment passed by the committee at SEMA’s request, vehicles valued at an amount less than $5,000 will be assessed at the lowest value shown in a nationally accepted used-car guide. Vehicles valued at an amount above $5,000 would only be assessed at the $5,000 tax rate. The Finance Committee will now consider the bill.
Canada (Nova Scotia) Collector Car Appreciation Day:
To correspond to SEMA’s Collector Car Appreciation Day on July 12, Nova Scotia Premier Darrell E. Dexter issued a proclamation designating July 2013 as “Automotive Heritage Month” in the province. Nova Scotia joins several states, provinces and cities that have officially recognized the celebration of collector cars. For the past three years, the U.S. Senate has passed resolutions at SEMA’s request to acknowledge Collector Car Appreciation Day which serves to raise awareness of the vital role automotive restoration and collection plays in American society.
EPA Tier 3 Standards:
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has proposed tougher tailpipe and evaporative emissions standards, known as “Tier 3,” to take effect in 2017. Reduced tailpipe emissions standards for particulate matter, non-methane organic gases and nitrogen oxides would be phased in between 2017 and 2025, and the useful life period would be raised from 120,000 miles to 150,000 miles.
The evaporative emissions standards would also be reduced by nearly 50% from current standards and the useful life period raised to 150,000 miles. The EPA would adopt California’s Onboard Diagnostic System requirements. Tier 3 would lower the sulfur content in gasoline by nearly two-thirds. California has already adopted this approach as of 2017, and the automakers are relying on the fuel to run lean-burn, gasoline direct-injection engines and allow the vehicle’s catalytic converter to work more efficiently. New vehicles would be tested and certified to gasoline with 15% ethanol (E15) rather than 10% (E10). The rule would apply to all light-duty vehicles, medium-duty passenger cars and some heavy-duty vehicles.
Ethanol and the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS):
The U.S. Congress will soon hold hearings on whether to modify the RFS. The law mandates that an increasing amount of ethanol or other biofuels be blended into gasoline each year—levels that may be unattainable in the current marketplace. Congress enacted the RFS in 2005 and then dramatically expanded the volume of renewables to be blended each year, from 9 billion gallons in 2008 to 36 billion gallons by 2022. The RFS has been the driving force behind a decision by the EPA to allow the content of ethanol in gasoline to rise from 10% (E10) to 15% ethanol (E15). E15 then becomes the way refiners meet RFS mandates. However, fuel producers are struggling to meet the increasing ethanol quotas, since few gas stations are selling the fuel and most automakers will deny warranties for E15-related damage. SEMA is working with a diverse coalition of organizations to oppose E15 and set realistic goals for the Reformulate Fuel Standard. SEMA supports two bills in Congress that would halt E15 sales.
Secondary Sales of Copyrighted Materials:
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that books and other goods produced overseas may be imported into the United States without the permission of the copyright holder. The court was considering the sale of imported textbooks on eBay that had been produced for a different market and were being sold at a different price than in the United States. At issue was the “first-sale” doctrine, which generally allows owners of a product made in the United States to decide whether they want to resell the product. The question was whether the doctrine applied to goods made overseas. The Court ruled that the Copyright Act’s term did not specify geographic boundaries and therefore was not limited to the United States. The first-sale doctrine applies to trademark law as well, with one exception. The owner of a U.S. trademark registration may bar the unauthorized import of “gray market” goods sold outside the company’s normal distribution channel if the trademark owner’s overseas product has a physical and material difference tailored for a particular foreign market.
National Manufacturing Strategy:
Identical bills have been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate directing the president to develop a comprehensive national manufacturing strategy and amend the plan every two years. Similar legislation has been introduced and considered in recent years. The “Rebuild American Manufacturing Act” is designed to increase the number of manufacturing jobs in the United States to no less than 20% of all American jobs and identify emerging technologies to strengthen competitiveness. The bill requires a survey of all companies headquartered in the United States with facilities overseas to identify what products and how many manufacturing jobs are being outsourced. A second survey would identify all manufacturing goods produced domestically, where they are produced and how many Americans are employed in manufacturing. A third survey would review the assistance provided to the manufacturing sector by the federal government and compare the approach taken by the United States with that of other countries.
Easing Small-Business Tax Burdens:
As part of a broader effort to achieve comprehensive tax reform, the House Ways and Means Committee released a draft proposal to simplify the tax code for small businesses and spur job creation. The draft bill would make permanent “Section 179” expensing, allowing small businesses to immediately deduct investments in new equipment up to $250,000 (phased out for investments exceeding $800,000). These levels will revert to $25,000 and $200,000 in 2014 without legislation. The draft bill would also replace small-business tax-accounting rules with a uniform rule allowing small businesses with gross receipts of $10 million or less to use the cash method of accounting. It would also provide a little more time for tax returns to be filed for certain types of corporations.
OHVs and Cape Hatteras National Seashore:
The U.S. House of Representatives and Senate have introduced SEMA-supported legislation to reopen Cape Hatteras National Seashore to off-highway vehicle (OHV) recreation. Spearheaded by North Carolina lawmakers, the legislation would reverse a 2012 management plan issued by the National Park Service that banned OHV access to large portions of the seashore with a goal of protecting nesting sea turtles and birds. Under that plan, about 39% of the Cape Hatteras National Seashore is off limits to OHV recreation, 40% is open year-round and 19% is open at different times during the year. The legislation would reinstate a management strategy that better balances wildlife protections with responsible OHV access. The 2012 decision has had a negative impact on local retail businesses, hotels, restaurants and campgrounds with reduced visits by OHV enthusiasts. To date, a House Natural Resources Subcommittee has held a hearing on the House bill.