LEGISLATIVE AND TECHNICAL AFFAIRS
Law and Order
By Daniel Ingber
Oceano Dunes Lawsuit: A California Superior Court judge ruled against six environmental and community groups that requested to intervene on behalf of the California Coastal Commission (CCC) in a lawsuit challenging the CCC’s authority to ban off-roading at the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area (SVRA). The SVRA is California’s only OHV park on the Pacific Ocean and has been under threat of closure for many years, primarily by groups that object to motorized recreation based on environmental arguments that off-roading causes more airborne particulate matter (dust) and/or threatens plants and animals. The CCC’s March 2021 decision to ban OHV use in the SVRA within three years triggered multiple lawsuits seeking to protect OHV access at Oceano Dunes by SEMA and Ecologic Partners Inc., a nonprofit group comprised of the Off-Road Business Association, the American Sand Association, and the American Motorcyclist Association District 37, along with Friends of Oceano Dunes. The groups that filed a motion to intervene in the case, including the Sierra Club and Oceano Beach Community Association, were attempting to defend the CCC’s decision to end OHV recreation at the Dunes. The motion was denied, as the Judge agreed with arguments by the off-road groups that the lawsuit focuses primarily on whether the CCC had exceeded its authority in banning OHV use, for which the environmental and community groups “have no special expertise.”
RPM Act: Support for the Recognizing the Protection of Motorsports Act (RPM Act; H.R. 3281 and S. 2736) in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate continues to expand, as the bill has more than 150 co-sponsors. The RPM Act clarifies that it is legal to make emissions-related changes to convert a street vehicle into a dedicated race car under the Clean Air Act (CAA). The bill would also confirm that producing, marketing and installing racing equipment on track vehicles does not violate the CAA. While the RPM Act enjoys strong bipartisan support in the 2021–2022 session of Congress, it is imperative that SEMA members and the racing community continue to apply pressure on their lawmakers to pass the bill.
Below are four things you can do right now to help to pass the RPM Act:
- Invite your members of Congress to visit your business or participate in a virtual meeting with your lawmaker and SEMA staff. Email email@example.com for a template and more information.
- Call and send a letter to your lawmakers at www.saveourracecars.com. A letter has already been drafted. It takes less than a minute.
- Sign a letter to your lawmakers on company letterhead. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for a template and more information.
- Post about the RPM Act on your company’s social-media accounts using the digital assets toolkit at www.sema.org/rpmtools.
- Learn more about SEMA’s Political Action Committee (SEMA PAC) at www.SEMApac.com. SEMA PAC allows SEMA members to support the lawmakers who stand up for our industry in Washington, D.C.
Year-Round Sale of E15: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that it will issue a temporary waiver to allow for the summertime sale of gasoline with up to 15% ethanol (E15). Currently, E15 cannot be sold between June 1 and September 15 due to fuel-volatility concerns that higher blends of ethanol combined with warmer temperatures may lead to increased ground-level ozone formation and smog. The agency will review the waiver every 20 days to determine if it is necessary for it to remain in place. SEMA opposes the expansion of E15 gasoline sales, as there may not be enough protections to guard against misfuelling. Under the Trump administration, the EPA issued a ruling to permanently allow year-round sale of E15; however, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia found that ruling unlawful. The Biden administration said that the decision is based on its authority to pursue a temporary emergency action.
CAFE Standards: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued stricter Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards for new vehicles for model years ’24–’26. The new standards increase fuel efficiency 8% per year for cars and light trucks in 2024 and 2025 and 10% for 2026. The CAFE standards now require an industry-wide fleet average of approximately 49 mpg in the 2026 model year. The new rule comes after the EPA last December issued a final rule to set more stringent new-vehicle greenhouse gas emissions for model year ’23–’26. The NHTSA and EPA rules have been harmonized in some areas to give automakers guidance and flexibility in meeting both standards.
Steel and Aluminum Tariffs: U.S. and U.K. officials agreed to a trade deal that went into effect June 1 to end U.S. tariffs on steel and aluminum. In return, the United Kingdom will lift levies on American products such as motorcycles, farm products and other consumer goods. The United Kingdom will be permitted to ship up to 500,000 metric tons of steel annually, which must be melted and poured in the UK. The agreement allows for quotas of 900 metric tons of unwrought aluminum and 11,400 metric tons of semi-finished aluminum, which must not contain “primary aluminum” from China, Russia or Belarus. The metal tariffs of 25% on steel and 10% on aluminum were initially imposed on various countries in 2018 under Section 232 of the Trade Expansion Act of 1962 on national security grounds. The U.S.–UK agreement comes after the United States reached similar deals with the European Union and Japan.
OSHA Requirements for Tracking Workplace Injuries: The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) issued a proposed rule to amend the current procedures for reporting workplace injuries and illnesses. Under the proposed rule, establishments with 100 or more employees in the highest-hazard industries would be required to electronically submit Forms 300 and 301 once a year to OSHA, along with the already required submission of Form 300A. This rule was previously amended in 2019 to require that only Form 300A be submitted instead of the two more detailed forms. Establishments with 20 or more employees in certain high-hazard industries must continue to electronically submit Form 300A yearly; however, the proposed rule removes the Form 300A submission requirement for certain establishments with over 250 employees that are not in high-hazard industries. (The term “high hazard” includes auto parts manufacturers and retailers.) As background, OSHA requires employers with more than 10 employees in most industries to keep records of occupational injuries and illnesses. The information is recorded on Form 300 (Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses), with a supplemental Form 301 if providing additional details about the injury or illness. At the end of each year, employers are required to complete OSHA Form 300A (Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses) and post the form in a visible location in the workplace.
Ban on Chrysotile Asbestos: The EPA issued a proposed rule to ban all manufacturing, processing, importation and commercial distribution of six categories of products containing chrysotile asbestos, which covers all of its current uses in the United States. This includes sheet gaskets, brake blocks, aftermarket automotive brakes/linings and other vehicle friction products. Chrysotile asbestos is the only known form of asbestos currently imported into the United States. The proposed prohibition of asbestos use in brake blocks, aftermarket automotive brakes and linings, other vehicle friction products and other gaskets for commercial use would take effect 180 days after the EPA issues a final rule.
Prop 65: California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) published a second modification to its proposed amendments to the Proposition 65 short form warning regulations first issued in January 2021 and revised in December 2021. Although the amendments include some welcome changes, SEMA and many other companies and organizations continue to oppose the overall proposal, since it would require companies to revise their short-form labels, catalogs and websites. Among other considerations, the new regulations would mandate that at least one chemical associated with cancer and/or one chemical known to be a carcinogen be identified on the short form.
The current short-form warning does not identify a specific chemical(s), while the long-form warning requires identification of a specific chemical(s):
- Short-Form: WARNING: Cancer and Reproductive Harm—www.P65Warnings.ca.gov.
- Long-Form: WARNING: This product can expose you to chemicals, including [name one or more chemicals], which is (are) known to the State of California to cause cancer or birth defects or other reproductive harm. For more information, visit www.P65Warnings.ca.gov.
The initial OEHHA proposal in January 2021 was met with overwhelming objections from SEMA and other organizations, as it would have limited the availability for companies to put the short-form warning on their products. OEHHA issued a modified proposal in December 2021 and a second modification on April 5, 2022. Of note, the modifications removed label size and packaging shape limitations when using the short-form warning; the proposed font type size requirement was removed; and the date for businesses to comply with the regulation was extended to two years instead of one. While these are positive changes, SEMA continues to oppose the overall measure, since companies would still be required to revise their existing short-form labels and update catalogs and websites to identify at least one chemical associated with cancer or reproductive harm.
The current 2018 regulation provides the short-form warning option as an acceptable alternative to the revised requirements for consumer product exposure warnings. Many companies use this option, since the warning fits more easily on product packaging and in advertising materials and the company does not have to identify at least one chemical listed under Prop. 65 that triggers the warning. In proposing the change, OEHHA expressed concerns about an overuse of the short-form warning label. OEHHA will now review public comments and decide whether it will implement the proposed short form changes.
Arizona Restoration: Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed into law SEMA-supported legislation to allow full restoration of pre-’81 vehicles, including temporary removal of the vehicle identification number (VIN) when necessary. The new law allows for the removal and reinstallation of a VIN if the vehicle was manufactured before ’81 and if the removal and reinstallation is reasonably necessary for repair or restoration.
California Combustion Engine Ban: The California Air Resources Board (CARB) issued a proposal to implement Governor Newsom’s SEMA-opposed 2020 executive order to phase out the sale of new diesel- or gas-powered cars in the state by 2035. The sale of used cars would not be affected under the proposal, and it would not force the current fleet of diesel- or gas-powered vehicles off the road. If adopted, the regulations could lead the way for at least 15 other states that have pledged to follow California’s standard for previous clean-car rules to adopt similar proposals. CARB is expected to vote on the proposal in August.
California ZEV Conversions: The California Assembly Transportation and Natural Resources Committees each unanimously passed SEMA-sponsored legislation that would incentive the aftermarket conversion of diesel- or gas- powered vehicles into zero-emissions vehicles. The bill awaits consideration by the Assembly Appropriations Committee.
Georgia Exhaust Noise: The Georgia House of Representatives failed to consider prior to adjournment SEMA-model legislation to protect enthusiasts from unfair exhaust noise citations. The bill would have allowed the use, sale, alteration or installation of car mufflers that meet a 95-decibel noise limit.
Illinois License Plates: The Illinois legislature failed to pass prior to adjournment SEMA-supported legislation to allow the display of only a single, rear-mounted license plate for all passenger vehicles. Under current law, vehicles must display two license plates.
Kansas Antique Vehicles: Governor Laura Kelly signed into law SEMA-supported legislation to allow antique vehicles that are 60 years old or older the ability to forego a VIN inspection when applying for a title. The new law expands eligibility of these vehicles for certain titling procedures by allowing only a bill of sale as proof of ownership and an application. Prior to the new law, only antique vehicles with a model year of ’50 or earlier could forego the VIN inspection when applying for a title.
Kansas Restoration: Governor Laura Kelly signed into law SEMA-supported legislation to allow full restoration of antique vehicles, including temporary removal of the vehicle identification number (VIN) when necessary. This bill allows for the removal and reinstallation of a VIN if it is reasonably necessary for repair or restoration. Previously, restorers who intentionally removed or altered a VIN, regardless of reason, were guilty of a felony and the vehicle was subject to seizure and destruction by law enforcement.
Maryland Emissions: The Maryland legislature failed to pass prior to adjournment SEMA-opposed legislation to enact a biennial $14 fee on motor vehicles that are exempt from the state’s Vehicle Emissions Inspection Program, including historic vehicles and street rods.
Maryland Military Vehicles: The Maryland legislature failed to pass prior to adjournment SEMA-supported legislation to allow for the registration of military surplus vehicles.
Michigan Registration: The Michigan House of Representatives introduced SEMA-supported legislation to reduce the total registration fee for most vehicles by 20%. This bill applies to all vehicles other than those registered as historic. Historic vehicles already have a significantly reduced registration, where a $30 fee is due every 10 years. The bill currently awaits consideration in the House Transportation Committee.
New Hampshire Exhaust: The New Hampshire legislature passed SEMA-supported legislation to allow the use of side-mounted exhaust on antique vehicles. The bill is pending before Governor Chris Sununu.
New Hampshire Inspections: The New Hampshire legislature failed to pass prior to the required legislative deadline SEMA-supported legislation to exempt antique vehicles from the state’s annual equipment inspection.
New Hampshire License Plates: The New Hampshire legislature failed to pass prior to a key legislative deadline SEMA-supported legislation to allow the owner of a motor vehicle to apply for a waiver to display only a single rear-mounted plate. This waiver would have been considered only if affixing a front license plate would alter the vehicle’s historic character, its collectability, or devalue the vehicle.
New Hampshire Registration: The New Hampshire House of Representatives failed to consider prior to the required legislative deadline SEMA-supported legislation to allow vehicles seven or more model years old to be exempt from needing a current certificate of title to register the vehicle.
New Jersey License Plates: The New Jersey Senate introduced SEMA-supported legislation to allow the display of only a single, rear-mounted license plate for all passenger vehicles. The bill awaits consideration in the Senate Transportation Committee.
Oklahoma Antique Plates: The Oklahoma legislature failed to pass prior to the required legislative deadline SEMA-supported legislation to create a new antique license plate specifically for vehicles at least 45 years old. This bill would have added the new plate offering while continuing to allow the current classic vehicle license plate option for vehicles 25–44 years of age.
Oklahoma Military Vehicles: The Oklahoma House of Representatives passed SEMA-supported legislation to allow the registration and titling of former military surplus vehicles. Under the bill, a military surplus vehicle is defined as a vehicle less than 35 years old and manufactured for use in either the United States Armed Forces or any country that was a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization at the time the vehicle was manufactured. The Senate Finance Committee passed the bill, and it now awaits consideration by the full Senate.
Utah Military Vehicles: Utah Governor Spencer Cox signed into law SEMA-supported legislation to exempt military vehicles from displaying a license plate. The new law requires a license plate to be carried inside the vehicle and ready for inspection by law enforcement upon request.
Virginia Exhaust Noise: Governor Glenn Youngkin signed into law SEMA-opposed legislation to reform enforcement of its exhaust noise laws. The new law repeals a 2020 law that prevented law enforcement from stopping motorists solely for exhaust noise violations. Virginia prohibits mufflers that use an “excessive or unusual level of noise” and mandates that mufflers must be identical to their factory setting, comparable to factory equipment, approved by the superintendent, or meet or exceed standards of SAE International, ANSI, or the U.S. Department of
Virginia YOM Plates: Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin signed into law SEMA-supported legislation to expand allowed year-of-manufacture (YOM) license plates for vehicles registered as antiques to include plates manufactured in ’73 or thereafter. Prior to the new law, only vehicles manufactured in ’72 or earlier could display YOM plates with DMV approval.
Washington Military Vehicles: The Washington legislature failed to pass prior to adjournment SEMA-supported legislation to allow for the registration of former military surplus vehicles. “Military surplus vehicle” was defined in the bill as a vehicle that is not operated using continuous tracks, was originally manufactured and sold directly to the United States Armed Forces and is no longer owned by the United States Armed Forces.
West Virginia Antique Fleet: The West Virginia legislature failed to pass prior to adjournment SEMA-supported legislation to create an antique fleet program. Under the proposal, the owner of five or more antique vehicles would be able to use a single registration plate.
West Virginia Antique Plates: The West Virginia legislature failed to pass prior to adjournment SEMA-supported legislation to allow antique vehicle license plates for vehicles weighing more than 10,000 lbs.
West Virginia Collector Vehicles: The West Virginia House of Representatives failed to consider prior to adjournment SEMA-supported legislation to limit the amount a county tax assessor may increase the assessed value of an antique or classic car each year for annual personal property taxes.
West Virginia Motorsports Incentives: The West Virginia legislature failed to pass prior to adjournment SEMA-supported legislation to aid and incentivize the construction of motorsports complexes.
West Virginia Foreign-Market Vehicles: The West Virginia House of Representatives failed to consider prior to adjournment SEMA-supported legislation to exempt any foreign-market vehicle that is 25 years or older from the state’s annual safety inspection if the vehicle has liability insurance.
West Virginia Motorsports Protection: The West Virginia legislature failed to pass prior to adjournment SEMA-supported legislation to protect motorsports venues that have been in operation for more than one year from nuisance claims.