By Neal Billig

Law and Order


Maryland—Off-Highway Vehicles: Governor Larry Hogan signed into law a bill to establish an off-highway vehicle (OHV) trail fund to maintain and construct OHV trails on land that is owned or leased by the Department of Natural Resources. There was no specific fund related to OHV trails previously.

Iowa—End of Legislative Session: Several bills introduced in Iowa in 2018 are now dead, having failed to pass before the legislative deadline. A bill that would have set a window tinting minimum standard of 35% light transmittance failed to be enacted despite having been passed by the Senate. Another bill would have allowed model-year ’78 or older vehicles to display a single license plate on the rear of the vehicle. The current single-plate law applies to only model-year ’48 or older vehicles. Finally, a bill to allow the creation of special-interest vehicle plates died. Special-interest vehicles are vehicles used solely for public displays, parades, related pleasure or hobby activities, or occasional transportation not related to the person’s business or occupation.

Louisiana—Military Vehicles: The Senate passed a bill to allow for the registration and operation of military surplus motor vehicles. The legislation was amended during markup to remove mileage and speed restrictions. The legislation passed the House and currently awaits the signature of Governor John Bel Edwards.

Michigan—Removal of Towing Restriction: Governor Rick Snyder signed into law a bill to allow for the attachment of a tow ball, bicycle rack, removable hitch or any other device designed to carry an object on the rear of a vehicle, even if it obstructs the rear license plate.

Mississippi—Collector Car Appreciation Day: The Senate and House passed Senate Concurrent Resolution 649 officially designating July 13, 2018, as Collector Car Appreciation Day in the state. The SEMA Action Network announced this date to mark the ninth commemoration in what has become an annual event to raise awareness of the vital role automotive restoration and collection plays in American society. In the previous eight years, thousands of enthusiasts in the U.S and Canada have gathered at car cruises, parades and other events to celebrate our nation’s automotive heritage. For more information, visit www.semasan.com/ccad.

Nebraska—Titling and Registration: Governor Pete Ricketts signed into law a bill to ease the process by which replica, assembled, kit and reconstructed cars are titled and registered. The legislation is based on a SEMA-model bill and provides registration categories for replica vehicles, assembled vehicles, kits and reconstructed vehicles.


Chinese Tariffs: The U.S. gross domestic product will be reduced by nearly $3 billion and 134,000 American jobs will be lost if the United States imposes 25% tariffs on $50 billion worth of Chinese imports, according to a study released by the National Retail Federation and the Consumer Technology Association. For each job gained, four will be lost, according to the report. In March, the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) issued a finding that the Chinese government is engaged in unfair actions, policies and practices covering intellectual property rights and technology transfer that negatively impacts U.S. companies and American economic interests. The USTR report contends that these practices have resulted in a diversion of U.S. jobs to China and an increase in the trade deficit.

President Trump directed the USTR to develop a list of imported Chinese products subject to 25% tariffs if U.S./Chinese negotiators are unable to resolve the dispute. The USTR has published a list of 1,300 products that could be subject to tariffs as soon as this summer. China has threatened retaliatory tariffs.

SEMA and the business community have urged the president and lawmakers to use trade laws strategically so that unfair trade practices are addressed without harming U.S. companies. SEMA has joined forces with other U.S. manufacturers and business organizations to support actions using legal mechanisms that won’t impose unnecessary harm on companies and consumers.

OHV Recreation in the California Desert: The U.S. House Natural Resources Committee passed SEMA-supported legislation to permanently designate six existing off-highway vehicle (OHV) areas comprising 300,000 acres in San Bernardino County: Johnson Valley (expanded by 11,000 acres), Spangler Hills, El Mirage, Rasor, Dumont Dunes and Stoddard Valley. The California Off-Road Recreation and Conservation Act expands wilderness designations in the California desert, although it prohibits the Secretary of the Interior from closing any roads or trails that are currently open for motorized recreational access. The bill now awaits consideration on the floor of the House of Representatives.

The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Federal Lands held a hearing on a separate bill sponsored by Rep. Cook that would create the Apple Valley OHV Recreation Area. The Desert Community Lands Act would transfer 4,630 acres of federal land to the town of Apple Valley. The land will be used for motorized recreation.

States Granting Honorable Discharge to Military Surplus Vehicles

Military surplus vehicles have seen a spike in popularity. Those are vehicles manufactured for the U.S. Armed Forces for off-road use and later authorized for sale to civilians. Because the vehicles are generally older, they often require serious restoration work by collectors.

A large number of military surplus vehicles are coming to market as the modern Humvee—the famous four-wheel-drive light truck—reaches an age that qualifies it as “historic military surplus” (25 years old or older). The increased number of individuals attempting to register military vehicles as street vehicles caught many states off-guard. A majority of states have no specific law or regulation on the books to address the titling of military vehicles. Eight statehouses responded by introducing bills this legislative session related to military vehicles.

The effort to allow civilians to register military vehicles for street use met with some success in 2018. Virginia saw Governor Northam sign pro-hobby legislation into law that will allow qualifying military vehicles to be registered and operated on public roadways as “antiques.” In Idaho, the governor enacted into law a bill that allows a vehicle built for the U.S. Armed Forces to be registered and operated on public highways, even if such vehicle does not meet federal motor vehicle safety standards. Louisiana has a bill that awaits Governor Edward’s signature that would overturn the current policy of not allowing military surplus vehicles to be registered.

Other military vehicle legislation is still being debated in various states. In Minnesota, all military vehicles must be registered as “collector military vehicles” and follow necessary provisions. A new proposal would give the option of registering certain decommissioned military vehicles as regular motor vehicles instead. The Hawaii legislature has been moving a bill through its chambers that allows owners of specific former military vehicles the opportunity to register their vehicles as special-interest vehicles. Similarly, Oklahoma legislation allows for the titling of Humvees, which are not able to be titled in the state at present.

Earlier this year, a couple of military bills aiming to expand already in place military vehicle laws died prior to the adjournment of the session. West Virginia sought to allow antique military vehicles to preserve military markings by using alternative registration insignia in place of displaying a license plate. Meanwhile, Wisconsin legislation would have allowed half-tracks to be registered as special-interest vehicles. Equipped with tires at the front and with rubber tracks or tracks made of equivalent material at the rear, they are not currently allowed to be registered in the state.

With the increasing numbers of surplus military vehicles becoming available, the trend of military vehicle legislation is likely to continue in the 2019 session.

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