LEGISLATIVE AND TECHNICAL AFFAIRS
By Stuart Gosswein
Maintenance Backlog on Federal Lands: The U.S. Senate passed the Great American Outdoors Act (GAOA)—a SEMA-supported bill that is critically important to revitalizing America’s outdoor recreation industry. The GAOA would dedicate $9.5 billion over the next five years to addressing the maintenance backlog on federally owned lands by creating a national parks and public land legacy restoration fund. The bill would also appropriate $900 million annually to the Land and Water Conservation Fund to help fund the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service and several other federal agencies as they rebuild and improve trails, roads, docks, campgrounds and more.
Addressing deferred maintenance on public lands will create jobs, revitalize communities and provide Americans with access to open spaces. SEMA and 30 other national associations that comprise the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable joined forces to support the bill. The GAOA would benefit many SEMA members in the off-road market (four-wheel drives, ATVs and UTVs) in addition to companies producing and selling wheels/tires, suspension, power and other equipment to help tow RVs and boats. The House is expected to pass the GAOA and President Trump has signaled support and intent to sign it into law.
COVID-19 Liability Protections: SEMA and a diverse coalition of trade associations have called on Congress to enact temporary and targeted COVID-19 liability protections for businesses. There is a growing need for businesses to be protected from unfair lawsuits when operating under applicable public health guidelines. The threat of liability exposure and frivolous lawsuits are a deterrent for companies seeking to operate or reopen their facilities in the wake of the pandemic.
The business community supports tort reform that would provide rational safe harbors during the current emergency and period of recovery. While not shielding companies from all liability, it would provide tailored protection as businesses act in good faith to follow available guidelines for protecting workers. Six states have laws or executive orders in place that limit business liability or provide businesses with protections against lawsuits arising from Coronavirus, including Arkansas, Alabama, Louisiana, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Utah. In the absence of national liability protections, many businesses have pursued general liability waivers.
PPP Flexibility Act: Lawmakers updated the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to provide businesses with more flexibility on the use of loan funds. Enactment of the PPP Flexibility Act reduced the amount of funds required to be spent on payroll costs from 75% to 60% for loans that are forgiven. The payroll calculation includes employee benefit costs for vacation, sick/parental leave, insurance premiums, retirement benefits, and state and local taxes.
Funds may also be used for mortgage or rent payments, utilities and other specified expenses. The law extended the covered period that qualifies for loan forgiveness, giving employers up to 24 weeks from the date the PPP loan was received or December 31, 2020, whichever comes first, to use the forgivable amount of the loan. PPP loans have a 1% interest rate on any amount not forgiven.
Pennsylvania—Motorsports: Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf issued updated business guidance allowing outdoor recreation facilities (including motorsports) to resume operation based on conditions set forth in the state’s Reopen Pennsylvania plan. The Pennsylvania legislature previously introduced a bill to allow outdoor recreational activities, including professional and amateur motorsports, to resume immediately under certain conditions. The bill currently awaits a final vote in the House of Representatives.
Illinois—Motorsports: Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker announced that spectator sports facilities, including racetracks, could reopen to fan attendance at 20% of a venue’s capacity beginning June 26. The SEMA-supported Illinois Motorsports Coalition (IMC), a group comprised of racing facilities across Illinois, previously submitted an eight-step plan to Governor Pritzker to allow motorsports to safely resume statewide.
Kansas—End of Legislative Session: A pair of SEMA-supported bills in Kansas failed to pass the Senate prior to the adjournment of the legislative session after being approved by the House of Representatives.
- Military Vehicles: The Senate failed to pass legislation to allow for the registration and on-road use of surplus military vehicles. Currently, only antique military vehicles more than 35 years old can be registered for road use.
- Antique Vehicles: The Senate Transportation Committee failed to consider a bill to amend the definition of an antique vehicle to allow alterations to the major component parts.
New Mexico—Motorsports: The New Mexico Motorsports Coalition, a group comprised of racing facilities across New Mexico, submitted a SEMA-supported plan to Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham that would allow motor-sports to safely resume statewide.