LEGISLATIVE AND TECHNICAL AFFAIRS
By Steve McDonald
Law and Order
Arkansas Miles Traveled Tax: Legislation to allow the state to implement a pilot program that charged drivers based on vehicle miles traveled was withdrawn by the bill’s sponsor after a public outcry in Arkansas. Under the measure, participants in the program would have been taxed 1.5 cents per each mile the subject vehicle traveled on Arkansas roadways. The bill could have created privacy concerns and penalized national efforts to create a more fuel-efficient vehicle fleet by taxing drivers based on vehicle mileage.
Florida Miles Traveled Tax: A Florida House subcommittee approved amended legislation that originally directed the state to undertake a study on the impact of implementing a system that charges drivers based on vehicle miles traveled (VMT). Under the amendment, the entire program has been deleted from the bill. However, a Florida Senate version of the bill has been approved by the Senate Transportation Committee and is pending in the Regulated Industries Committee. The bill provides that the Center for Urban Transportation, in consultation with the Florida Transportation Commission, would establish a pilot program to study the feasibility of implementing a system that charges drivers based on VMT. As gas tax revenues decrease due to hybrid and electric vehicle ownership, states are looking for new sources of funding for pet projects. The Senate bill allows the Center for Urban Transportation to spend up to $400,000 for the study and pilot project design and provides for the implementation of the pilot program in 2017.
Hawaii Ethanol: Legislation to remove the requirement that gasoline offered for sale in the state contain a percentage of ethanol was approved by the Hawaii Senate and sent to the House with a significant amendment. Under the amended bill, the effective date of the repeal would be July 1, 2050. The original date for the repeal was July 1, 2015. This amendment renders the bill almost useless to the thousands of older cars that are currently most negatively affected by ethanol blends. The bill will now be considered by two additional House committees. Currently, the state requires that gasoline sold in the state for use in motor vehicles contain 10% ethanol by volume.
Iowa Single License Plate: Legislation that would provide for the issuance of a single rear-mounted license plate for motor vehicles was approved by the House Transportation Committee and will next be considered in a vote by the full Iowa House of Representatives. The bill would 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 measure would also save money, conserve resources and bring Iowa in line with other states that are moving to a single-plate requirement.
Kentucky Property Tax: Legislation to put in place a new and more beneficial valuation procedure for older vehicles was signed into law by Governor Steve Beshear. Under the new law, vehicles 20 years old or older would no longer be presumed to be in “original factory” or “classic” condition for purposes of the property tax. Original factory and classic vehicles are currently assessed as high-value collectibles. This measure instead provides three options for assessing the value of these vehicles. Under each option, the value of the vehicle would be reduced by 10% each year.
Maine Ethanol: In 2013, SAN-supported legislation to prohibit the sale and distribution of corn-based ethanol in Maine was signed into law. Under the new law, 10 other states or a number of states with a collective population of 30,000,000 would have to enact a similar prohibition before the Maine law could go into effect. This year, legislation has been introduced to amend the law to provide that this prohibition would take effect if only three other states have enacted laws that prohibit the sale of motor fuel containing corn-based ethanol.
Maryland Historic Vehicles: SEMA is opposing legislation to increase the age requirement for vehicles eligible for registration as “historic motor vehicles.” Under a bill approved by the House of Delegates, the age requirement would be raised from 20 to at least 30 years old. The bill is now pending in the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee. While the bill claims to address unsubstantiated claims of abuse, the Motor Vehicle Administration is already authorized by regulation to suspend the registration of any historic vehicle for use that is inconsistent with the registration requirements.
Maryland Single Plates: Amended House legislation to require the issuance of only a single license plate for historic vehicles and street rods was approved by the House of Delegates. The bill now moves to the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee for consideration. Under the amendment, the single-plate option would be available only to owners of historic vehicles that are 60 years old and older. The bill no longer affords this option to street rods or later-model historics.
Nebraska Single License Plate: Legislation to provide for the issuance (for a $100 fee) of a single license plate for passenger cars that were not originally equipped with a bracket on the front of the vehicle to display a plate was approved by the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee. The bill will now be considered in a vote by all legislators. If enacted into law, the single-plate option would take effect on January 1, 2017.
Nevada Classic Vehicles: Legislation, opposed by SEMA, to drastically alter the requirements for vehicles eligible for registration as a “classic vehicle” was introduced. Under the bill, the special plates would be allowed only for passenger cars and require that owners provide proof satisfactory to the state that the vehicle is driven solely for personal use and not more than 5,000 miles during an annual registration period. The owner would also be required to have another passenger car or motorcycle registered during the entire registration period. The bill also would exclude light commercial vehicles from eligibility.
New Hampshire Antique Trucks: Legislation to include trucks more than 25 years old (regardless of weight) in the definition of eligible “antique motor vehicles” was approved by the House of Representatives and sent to the Senate Transportation Committee for consideration. The bill provides the option for older trucks to take advantage of the many accommodations available to antique motor vehicles.
New Mexico Replica Cars: A version of SEMA-model legislation to ease the process by which replica cars are titled and registered died when the legislature adjourned for the year. The bill had been approved by the full House of Representatives and was awaiting a vote by the full Senate. Among other things, the bill created a specific registration and titling class for replicas; provided that the model year is the year of the model or brand that a replica car most resembles; exempted replica cars from state and local laws or ordinances requiring periodic vehicle or vehicle-emissions inspections and testing; and provided that replica cars need not have equipment that was not required by state or federal law in its model year.
North Dakota Vehicle Modifications: A bill that originally sought to increase the population of vehicles prohibited from modifying the manufacturer’s original suspension, steering or brake system was amended and approved by the House of Representatives. The bill has been sent to the Senate for concurrence with the amendments. Under the amendment, the bill would no longer restrict modifications on vehicles weighing between 7,000 and 10,000 lbs.
Tennessee Emissions: Amended legislation to extend the emissions-inspection exemption for new cars was approved by the House Government Operations Committee. Under the original bill, vehicles that are three years old and newer and that have an odometer reading of less than 36,000 miles would be excused from the emissions test. Under the newly amended bill, all vehicles three years old and newer would be excused regardless of mileage. Current law exempts only new motor vehicles being registered for the first time or one year from initial registration.
Texas Ethanol: Legislation to prohibit the sale of motor fuel with an ethanol mixture was introduced in the Texas House of Representatives. The measure recognizes that ethanol fuels cause problems with fuel pumps and fuel gauges as well as other engine performance issues, especially over a period of time when the vehicle is not used.
Virginia Exhaust: Governor Terry McAuliffe signed into law legislation to exempt certain antique motor vehicles from the requirement that they have exhaust systems of a type installed as standard factory equipment or comparable to that designed as factory equipment. The new law, which SEMA supported, provides this exemption only to antique vehicles manufactured prior to 1950 and containing engines comparable to those designed as standard factory equipment for use on those vehicles. The new law recognizes that factory replacement parts or comparables are not always readily available for antique motor vehicles manufactured prior to 1950.
West Virginia Legislation: Several bills introduced in 2015 failed to be approved by both houses of the legislature prior to the adjournment of the session. Among these were the following: A resolution to designate the second Friday in July as West Virginia Collector Car Appreciation Day was approved by the full House of Delegates but stalled in the Senate; a bill based on SEMA-model legislation that would have allowed owners to install and use aftermarket modified exhaust systems that meet a 95-decibel limit was not given committee consideration; legislation to allow roof-mounted off-road light bars to be uncovered when vehicles are operated on roads and highways was approved by the House Roads and Transportation Committee and referred to the House Judiciary Committee, where it did not receive committee consideration; a bill to make it a criminal offense to disturb the peace with “noise from an exhaust system” was not given committee consideration; and a measure to exempt all motor vehicles from personal property taxes also did not receive committee consideration.
Estate Taxes: The U.S. House Ways and Means Committee passed legislation on a straight party-line vote to repeal the estate tax. In 2012, lawmakers compromised on the current 40% tax rate with a $5 million-per-person exemption (indexed to inflation). It is unclear if there is enough support to repeal the tax, which now impacts an estimated 5,500 families, including many owners of small businesses. The bill will next be sent to the floor of the House for a vote by all members.