FROM MIKE SPAGNOLA
Legislative Update: The Bigger Playing Field
By Mike Spagnola, SEMA President and CEO
It’s been decades since SEMA, the association, first recognized the need to have a voice at the table when it comes to legislative and regulatory affairs. The result was an office, staffed by legal and legislative professionals, in Washington, D.C., aimed at better informing lawmakers about the specialty products industry and the important role it plays in American culture and the overall American economy.
Over the years, their work has opened up a lot of doors, but today the overall regulatory environment has become more complex as new, rapidly evolving technologies have led to increased regulatory activity.
The pace of regulatory activity at the state and local level has, if anything, increased, even as the federal government moves slower than ever as lawmaker positions have become entrenched along partisan lines. That has required the association to adopt a broader approach to helping governments at every level formulate public policy that works for everybody, avoiding well-meaning regulations that also have the potential to create unintended, detrimental side effects.
With a larger field to plow, SEMA leadership has recognized the need to prioritize beefing up the association’s legislative affairs footprint. One new hire, SEMA Senior Vice President of Public and Government Affairs Karen Bailey-Chapman, reflects the association’s intention to increase SEMA’s engagement and overall visibility with public policymakers on every level—and also the public in general.
An example of concerning state regulatory activity would be the recent California initiative to ban sales of vehicles with internal combustion engines starting in 2035. Because some 17 states have attached themselves to California air emissions standards, this policy could potentially roll into other states. So the impact of the ban is relevant to Americans everywhere, making it clear that clean air planning, state by state, needs to be in SEMA’s playing field. The goal is to make sure the public understands the impact of these bans, and to communicate to policy makers that government should take a technology-neutral approach, not pick winners or losers when looking to achieve clean air goals.
Another new hire, Alicia Steger, has been recruited to manage fundraising for the SEMA Political Action Committee (PAC), which will be an important factor when it comes to the 2024 election cycle. The SEMA PAC allows SEMA members to contribute personal funds to help elect lawmakers who support our industry. (If you are interested in learning more about the PAC, visit www.semapac.com or contact Steger at email@example.com.)
To make it easier for the industry to gain access to the Washington, D.C., legislative affairs office, a new communications site is nearing launch—something you’ll be hearing more about soon. But success in the future will revolve not just around industry stakeholders to participate in industry advocacy, but also helping Americans understand why our issues are their issues, by sharing the passion we have and taking it outside the industry. With new resources in place and a broader vision for our mission, we can hope to make Americans understand the ways the automotive industry benefits them in the long term, and how to help bring them along as our advocates as well.