LEGISLATIVE AND TECHNICAL AFFAIRS
By Steve McDonald
Law and Order
Hawaii Ethanol: Legislation to repeal the requirement that gasoline offered for sale in Hawaii contain a percentage of ethanol was signed into law by Governor David Ige. The new law becomes effective on December 31, 2015. The SEMA-supported law recognizes that the requirement of blending ethanol into Hawaii’s gasoline does not produce any economic benefit for the state and that the import of ethanol creates an economic burden for state residents.
SEMA-opposed legislation to require manufacturers of certain automotive products to include all ingredients on the product label and online on the manufacturer’s website was put in the inactive file. The bill had been approved by the Assembly Business and Professions Committee and Appropriations Committee. Currently, ingredients in automotive products are not required to be listed on product labels. This bill would make it a crime to manufacture, distribute and sell at retail or wholesale price automotive products after July 1, 2016, that do not have a label and a manufacturer webpage address listing all product ingredient information. The measure would apply to products for maintaining the appearance of a vehicle, including products for washing, waxing, polishing, cleaning or treating the exterior or interior surfaces of a vehicle but excluding automotive paint and paint-repair products.
Legislation to require new-car dealers to provide purchasers with a written statement declaring that it is illegal for manufacturers or dealers to void a warranty or deny coverage because aftermarket or recycled parts were installed or because someone other than the dealer performed service was signed into law by Governor Dannel Malloy. The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act regulates warranties for the protection of consumers and provides that vehicle manufacturers may not deny warranty coverage based on the use of an aftermarket part alone. Consumers are generally unaware of the rights afforded to them under the law, and many are forced to absorb the costs for repairs that were properly covered under the warranty. This new SEMA-supported law will simply inform consumers, in 10-point boldface type, of these basic rights.
Connecticut Property Tax:
Legislation to lower the property tax on many older vehicles died when the legislature adjourned for the year. Under the bill, the personal property tax would have been changed to a flat tax of $100 per year for vehicles between eight and 10 years old with an assessed value of less than $10,000 and $50 per year for vehicles 10 years old and older with an assessed value of less than $8,000. Under current Connecticut law, personal property taxes on vehicles are determined based on the assessed value of the vehicle and the local mill rate, which varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. The bill would have been most beneficial in jurisdictions with the highest mill rates and less helpful in jurisdictions with lower mill rates.
Nebraska Single Plates:
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 front plate bracket died when the legislature adjourned for the year. The bill had been approved by the Transportation and Telecommunications Committee and was pending a vote by all Nebraska legislators. Under the bill, a license decal would have been issued with the single license plate and the decal would have been displayed on the driver’s side of the windshield. The measure is eligible for consideration in 2016.
Legislation to prohibit the sale of motor fuel with an ethanol mixture died when the legislature adjourned for the year. The bill recognized 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. Current high-performance specialty parts along with pre-model-year 2001 cars and parts may be most susceptible to corrosion. The measure also acknowledged that ethanol has been shown to decrease fuel mileage.
Texas Vehicle-Miles Traveled:
Legislation to impose a vehicle miles traveled (VMT) tax on motor vehicles that travel 5,000 or more miles a year died when the legislature adjourned for the year. The VMT tax would have been calculated by charging 1 cent per mile driven during the inspection period minus the estimated fuel taxes paid by the vehicle’s owner. The actual VMT would have been measured using an annual odometer inspection. As gas tax revenues decrease due to hybrid and electric vehicle ownership, states are looking for new sources of funding for
SEMA-supported legislation to ease the burden on car owners by requiring the state, upon the owner’s request, to issue titles for vehicles not currently required to be titled was signed into law by Governor Peter Shumlin. Under the new law, these titles would only be available for vehicles 25 years old and older, while vehicles 15 years old and older would continue not to require titles. Most importantly, the new law will expand the out-of-state market for older Vermont motor vehicles and enhance their value to collectors. The law requires the state to issue a title if the applicant pays a fee and the state is satisfied that the applicant is the owner of the vehicle, is a Vermont resident and the vehicle is not subject to any liens or encumbrances. A new vehicle identification number will be assigned if the vehicle does not have one.
West Virginia Collector Car Appreciation Day:
West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin issued a proclamation designating July 10, 2015, as Collector Car Appreciation Day in the state. SEMA announced this date to mark the sixth commemoration in what has become an annual event to raise awareness of the vital role automotive restoration and collection plays in American society.
Nevada Classic Cars: Citing the opposition of SEMA, Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval vetoed legislation that would have altered the requirements for vehicles eligible for registration as classic vehicles, old timers, street rods and classic rods so that only vehicles manufactured prior to ’96 would be eligible. In his statement rejecting the bill, the governor noted that it “…unnecessarily penalizes true Nevada car enthusiasts who might seek one of these plates for proper reasons.” While claiming to be targeted at current “abusers” of specialty plates who registered their vehicles under these designations to avoid emissions testing and fees, the bill instead targeted owners of ’96 and newer cars that are not even currently eligible for classic status. In seeking the veto, SEMA committed to working with the legislature toward enacting fair legislation that will target the real offenders instead of collector-car owners who did not deserve this heavy-handed approach.
Collector Car Appreciation Day:
The U.S. Senate passed Senate Resolution 196 (S. Res. 196) designating July 10, 2015, as Collector Car Appreciation Day (CCAD). Congressional Automotive Performance and Motorsports Caucus Co-Chairs Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) and Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) sponsored S. Res. 196. This SEMA-sponsored “holiday” has been marked each year since 2010 by a U.S. Senate resolution recognizing that the “collection and restoration of historic and classic cars is an important part of preserving the technological achievements and cultural heritage of the United States.” As in years past, a wide range of automotive events will be held to commemorate the occasion.
The Federal Trade Commission has reviewed its rules, guides and interpretations under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, the law governing warranties issued for consumer products, including automobiles and auto parts. The Federal Trade Commission outlines information that manufacturers and sellers must supply to consumers regarding warranty coverage and provides guides to help advertisers avoid unfair or deceptive practices. The Federal Trade Commission restated most of its existing rules for enforcement of the law and expanded the rules with respect to two issues. First, the Federal Trade Commission clarified that warranty language is deceptive if it implies that warranty coverage is conditioned on the use of specified parts or services. Second, the Federal Trade Commission confirmed that the law applies to warranties that would limit ordinary repair and maintenance options as well as warranties that would limit the ability to install specialty equipment.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently announced proposed annual targets under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) for the amount of ethanol that is required to be blended into gasoline in 2014, 2015 and 2016. While the targets have been revised down, they still rely on expanded sales of E15 (gas that is 15% ethanol). Ethanol, especially higher concentrations such as E15, can cause metal corrosion and dissolve certain plastics and rubbers in automobiles produced before 2001 that were not constructed with ethanol-resistant materials. SEMA is working to enact legislation in the U.S. Congress to repeal the EPA regulation authorizing E15 sales, cap the amount of ethanol blended into gasoline at 10% and eliminate a mandate that 15 billion gallons of corn-based ethanol be blended into the U.S. fuel supply every year. SEMA has joined with more than 50 other organizations from the auto, boat, food and energy industries to support passage of the legislation.
Limited-Production Turnkey Replica Cars:
At SEMA’s request, Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK) and Rep. Gene Green (D-TX) have introduced bipartisan legislation that would enable low-volume car manufacturers to produce turnkey replica vehicles for customers nationwide. Replica vehicles resemble classic cars produced at least 25 years ago. The Low Volume Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Act of 2015 (H.R. 2675) would allow companies to construct up to 500 such cars a year, subject to federal regulatory oversight.