LEGISLATIVE AND TECHNICAL AFFAIRS
By Steve McDonald
Law and Order
Alabama Vintage Vehicles: Legislation to authorize the owner of a vintage vehicle to keep the permanent vintage tag but pay regular license taxes and registration fees for the privilege of operating the vehicle for general transportation purposes died when the legislature adjourned for the year. The bill was not given committee consideration. Under the bill, the vehicle owner would have been required to maintain and show proof of mandatory liability insurance coverage. Under existing law, vintage vehicles may be used only in club activities, exhibitions, tours and parades but not for general transportation purposes.
Arizona Emissions: Legislation to create a rolling emissions-inspection exemption for vehicles that are 40 years old or older was not considered in committee before the mandatory deadline. The bill is dead for the year. Arizona already has a 2011 law on the books to exempt all vehicles manufactured in model-year ’74 and earlier from the state’s mandatory biennial emissions-inspection program. However, it has yet to take effect. Arizona regulators must first update the state’s air-quality plan and demonstrate that the exemption will not impact Arizona’s compliance with clean-air requirements. The updated plan must then be approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality has indicated that it intends to submit a revised air-quality plan to the EPA by early 2015. The EPA will then have another 18 months to approve or reject the changes.
Colorado Collector Cars: Legislation that originally repealed the six-year limitation for applying a salvage brand to a motor vehicle whose cost of being repaired exceeded its value was approved by the House and Senate and now goes to the governor for his signature and enactment into law. A SEMA-supported amendment to the bill protects from the salvage brand all vehicles that qualify as collector’s items, horseless carriages or street rods at the time of damage. The measure now protects collector cars from a permanent “salvage” blemish on the vehicle’s title, which would have made it suspect even if the vehicle is expertly restored or modified.
Kansas Inoperable Vehicles: SEMA-opposed legislation that would have provided counties with the authority to remove from private property motor vehicles deemed to be a “nuisance” died when the legislature adjourned for the year. In Kansas, maintaining a public nuisance means “intentionally causing or permitting a condition to exist which injures or endangers the public health, safety or welfare.” This definition provides no real guidance for motor-vehicle owners maintaining inoperable vehicles on private property.
Kentucky Property Tax: Kentucky legislation to change the valuation procedure on vehicles for purposes of the property tax died when the legislature adjourned for the year. The bill would have put a new valuation procedure in place for older vehicles. Vehicles 20 years old or older would no longer have been presumed to be in “original factory” or “classic” condition. The measure instead provided three options for assessing the value of these vehicles. The bill preserved the tax assessor’s ability to deviate from this valuation formula if information is available to warrant such a deviation from standard value. Newer vehicles would have been valued at the “average trade-in” value rather than the higher “clean trade-in” value.
Louisiana Collector Cars: Legislation to annually designate the Friday, Saturday and Sunday of the second weekend in July as “Louisiana Collector Car Appreciation Weekend” was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee and now moves to the floor of the Senate for a vote by all members. The bill has already been approved by the full House of Representatives. Earlier this year, SEMA announced these dates to mark the fifth commemoration in what has become an annual event to raise awareness of the vital role automotive restoration and collection plays in American society. SEMA is again working to secure a U.S. Congressional resolution to recognize the day’s significance.
Minnesota Classic Cars: Legislation to provide for a program that will allow classic-car status to be determined from nationally recognized standards and guides was approved by the full Senate. Having already been passed by the House, the bill now moves to the governor for his signature and enactment into law. Under the current system, this status must be designated by the state through a time-consuming amendment to the law.
Nebraska Automobile Museums: A SEMA-supported bill to exempt purchases made by historic-automobile museums from sales and use taxes was signed into law by Governor Dave Heineman. Under the new law, a historic-automobile museum is “a museum that is used to maintain and exhibit a collection of at least two hundred motor vehicles and was open to the public an average of four or more hours per week during the previous calendar year.” The law exempts these museums from sales and use taxes on the gross receipts from the sale, lease or rental of and the storage, use or other consumption of purchases of items that are displayed or held for display and that are related to the general purpose of the museum.
Nebraska Headlamps: A SEMA-opposed bill to require headlamps to be “clear or of a white color” died when the legislature adjourned for the year. SEMA had urged the bill sponsor to amend the measure to conform to federal standards regarding headlamps. Under the federal standards, it is possible to design a headlamp that can be perceived as having a blue tint but that nevertheless remains within the federal boundaries that define “white.”
New Hampshire Year-of-Manufacture Plates: Legislation to expand the range of vehicles eligible to use original year-of-manufacture license plates on antique motor vehicles was approved by the Senate Transportation Committee and now moves to a vote by the full Senate. The bill has already been passed by the House of Representatives. Currently, only ’60-and-earlier model-year antique vehicles are eligible to use these plates. Under the bill, eligibility would be expanded to include all ’75-and-earlier model years.
New Hampshire Ethanol: Legislation to prohibit a person from selling or offering for sale gasoline that contains more than 10% of corn-based ethanol was approved by the House of Representatives. If enacted, the law would take effect only if any two additional New England states adopt similar legislation limiting the amount of corn-based ethanol in gasoline to 10%. The bill is now being considered by the Senate Transportation Committee.
New York Plates: A bill to authorize the owner of a motor vehicle, for a $50 annual fee, to display a single license plate on the rear of the vehicle will be considered by the Assembly Transportation Committee. The measure would help protect the aesthetic contours of certain vehicles and relieve vehicle owners of the burden and expense of having to create mounting holes on some original bumpers. The funds collected under the bill would be used to help provide emergency services.
Ohio Headlamps: A bill that originally required headlights on motor vehicles to display a “white light” without defining the term was signed into law by Governor John Kasich. A SEMA amendment that was included in the bill now conforms the new law to federal standards regarding headlamp color, with which all headlamps destined for on-road use must comply. All headlamps are required to comply with the color requirements contained in the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. It is illegal for a state to enact a law that would conflict with a federal standard. Under the federal standards, it is possible to design a headlamp that can be perceived as having a blue tint but that nevertheless remains within the federal boundaries that define “white.”
Rhode Island License Plates: Legislation to authorize the state to issue replica year-of-manufacture plates for antique vehicles was introduced. The bill also allows the state to approve for use plates that were issued in the exact year of manufacture of the vehicle. In Rhode Island, an antique motorcar is “any motor vehicle which is more than twenty-five (25) years old. Unless fully inspected and meeting inspection requirements, the vehicle may be maintained solely for use in exhibitions, club activities, parades, and other functions of public interest and may not be used primarily for the transportation of passengers or goods over any public highway.”
Wisconsin Historical Plates: A bill to allow the display, on collector vehicles manufactured before 1979, of one or two historical registration plates from or representing the model year of the vehicle was signed into law by Governor Scott Walker. Under the new law, these plates could be used if the vehicle is being operated to or from a car show or parade and any current registration plate issued for the vehicle is carried in the vehicle. In Wisconsin, a vehicle is eligible for registration as a collector vehicle if the vehicle is at least 20 years old, has not been altered and is being preserved for its historic interest or if the vehicle is at least 25 years old and is a certain type of former military vehicle.
Wisconsin License Plates: Legislation to require that motor vehicles display only a single license plate on the rear of the vehicle died when the legislature adjourned for the year. The bill did not receive committee consideration. The measure would have saved money, conserved resources and brought Wisconsin in line with other states that have moved to a single-plate requirement. The bill also would have protected the design contours of collector cars and relieved vehicle owners of the burden of having to create mounting holes on some fabricated and original bumpers.
Expired Tax Credits: Since the U.S. House of Representatives will likely not tackle comprehensive tax reform in 2014, lawmakers are drafting legislation to extend a variety of yearly tax breaks that expired at the end of 2013. The Senate Finance Committee has already approved and sent to the Senate floor a bill containing a number of such measures. Of interest to the business community, the SEMA-supported Senate bill would provide a two-year extension, through 2015, for the research-and-development tax credit. It would also extend the 50% bonus depreciation for qualified property purchased before January 1, 2016. Section 179 expensing would be restored for one more year at the maximum $500,000 deduction, with a $2 million phase-out level. Absent the renewal, the allowance reverts to $25,000, with a $200,000 phase-out level.
“National” OHV Recreation Area: A SEMA-supported bill has been introduced in Congress to include the word “National” within the title “Johnson Valley Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation Area.” The legislation follows last December’s success when Congress passed a law ending a six-year clash between the military and off-highway vehicle (OHV) users over access to thousands of acres of Southern California desert. More than 96,000 acres will continue to be maintained by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management as an OHV recreation area, with other lands being transferred to the adjoining Twentynine Palms Marine Corps base for military training needs. The area contains a unique mix of open desert, dry-lake beds and formidable rock-crawling formations and hosts the famous “King of the Hammers” race, which will continue unhampered. Johnson Valley is the nation’s first federal OHV area, and the word addition will acknowledge the land’s national significance.
Endangered Species Act Reform: The U.S. House Natural Resources Committee approved four bills to reform aspects of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The bills have been sent to the House floor. The bills would require the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to release data used to make listings of threatened or endangered animals and plants, report how much money is spent on ESA-related lawsuits, and place a cap on plaintiff-attorney reimbursement fees. Despite agreeing that the law is flawed, Republicans and Democrats are generally deadlocked on how to comprehensively update the 40-year-old ESA. Millions of acres of land have been set aside to protect threatened or endangered animals and plants, with few tangible results beyond lawsuits and attorney fees. Scores of OHV roads and trails have been unnecessarily closed as a consequence. SEMA supports an alternative approach that focuses on establishing and managing smaller recovery zones.