LEGISLATIVE AND TECHNICAL AFFAIRS
By Steve McDonald
A legislative proposal to remove the requirement that gasoline offered for sale in the state contain a percentage of ethanol was approved on a 23–3 vote by the House Environmental Resources and Energy Committee. The state currently requires that “all gasoline sold or offered for sale to ultimate consumers in this Commonwealth must contain at least 10% cellulosic ethanol by volume….” After a stop in the Appropriations Committee, the bill will be considered in a vote by all members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.
Law and Order
Michigan Registration Fees:
Legislation to increase the initial registration and transfer registration tax by $100 was introduced. Under the bill, the increase would apply only to the first registration and the first registration after a transfer registration.
Michigan Road User Fee:
A bill was introduced to require the state to charge and collect a user fee from each registrant of a motor vehicle. The fee would come in addition to the vehicle registration tax. The user fee would be $50 for each 10,000 miles driven by the registrant during the one-year period immediately preceding a registration renewal. The measure would require that a vehicle registrant appear in person at an office of the secretary of state at the time of vehicle registration renewal to allow the state to verify the current mileage of the vehicle, calculate and collect the user fee.
An effort to remove the requirement that all gasoline offered for sale in Oregon contain a percentage of ethanol died when the legislature adjourned for the year. Currently, the state requires that “a retail dealer, nonretail dealer or wholesale dealer may not sell or offer for sale gasoline unless the gasoline contains 10% ethanol by volume.” The bill recognized that while the current ethanol mandate does not apply to fuel used in antique, all-terrain and racing vehicles, there has been an inability to obtain unblended gasoline for engines that may be damaged by ethanol.
Oregon Miles-Traveled Tax:
A bill to convert the state’s current voluntary vehicle miles-traveled tax program to a mandatory program died when the legislature adjourned for the year. The bill did not receive committee consideration. The mandatory program would have applied to all high-mileage vehicles that have a rating of 55 miles per gallon or better. These high-mileage vehicles would not have paid the gas tax that applies to all other vehicles.
Canada Automotive Heritage Month:
The provinces of New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island and Saskatchewan each issued a proclamation designating July 2015 as Automotive Heritage Month. These provinces joined British Columbia, Manitoba and Nova Scotia as jurisdictions that have officially recognized this celebration of collector cars. Since 2010, 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. This year’s celebration took place on July 10.
The U.S. Senate Finance Committee passed legislation to extend tax breaks of key importance to SEMA members. The bill extends for two years the research and development tax credit, which provides businesses a credit equal to 20% of research expenses incurred over and above the average amount the company invested in research for the prior four years. The legislation encourages businesses to make capital expenditures by providing 50% bonus depreciation on qualified property purchased before January 1, 2017. The bill would extend Section 179 expensing, which permits small businesses to deduct up to $500,000 in capital investments made in the year of the investment and also extends the seven-year depreciation recovery period for motorsports entertainment complexes. The bill next proceeds to the Senate floor for consideration. The House has already passed many of the
The House Energy & Commerce Committee passed legislation to allow manufacturers to meet warranty and labeling requirements for consumer products by providing warranty information online. Under the legislation, companies providing the online information would be required to alert consumers on how to access their websites either on products, their packaging or in accompanying manuals. They would also be required to provide a non-Internet-based platform for individuals to access information about the warranty, such as a mailing address or a phone number. While the Federal Trade Commission doesn’t require companies to provide consumers with a written warranty, those that do must comply with the agency’s rules. This legislation helps businesses that provide warranty information save money through electronic communications and allows consumers to access information online rather than through paperwork or product packaging. The Senate has already passed an identical version of the bill.
Mandatory Overtime Pay:
Employers are currently exempt from paying salaried employees overtime if they make more than about $23,660. The Department of Labor (DOL) has proposed increasing this level to about $50,440 per year. The Fair Labor Standards Act establishes federal minimum wage and overtime rules for employees. The rules include exemptions for executive, administrative, professional and other “white-collar” employees. The exemption includes certain minimum qualification tests regarding primary job duties and levels of pay. The minimum pay levels have not been raised in a number of years. The DOL’s proposed rule would increase that amount and index it for future annual raises. The proposal is now subject to public comment.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will ban the use of HFC-134a as a motor-vehicle air-conditioning system refrigerant beginning with model-year ’21 new vehicles. The rule does not apply to the use of HFC-134a in vehicles already in use or the continued servicing of those vehicles with the refrigerant. Although HFC-134a was approved for use years ago, the EPA has now identified other chemicals to be more environmentally friendly substitutes to chlorofluorocarbons.
President Obama has designated three more national monuments, including the 700,000-plus-acre Basin and Range National Monument in Eastern Nevada and the 330,000-acre Berryessa Snow Mountain Monument in Northern California. The administration has now designated 19 national monuments since 2009. SEMA opposes the designations, since they automatically prohibit new roads or trails for motorized vehicles and require that a new land management plan be drafted that could lead to more road closures. SEMA supports legislation in the U.S. Congress to curtail the president’s power to unilaterally designate national monuments by requiring their approval by Congress and the impacted states.