Democratic leaders are discussing passage of a second economic stimulus package before Congress adjourns in late September, although legislative specifics remain unclear. The talking points include a need to create jobs and spur economic activity by improving the nation's infrastructure—roads, bridges, harbors—and by targeting relief to lower-income Americans.
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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) believes the windshield zone intrusion standard (Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 219) is now unnecessary. The rule dates back to 1975 and is intended to make sure the windshield area is clear of other motor-vehicle components in case of an accident.
The Bush Administration has decided not to propose specific steps to address greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Instead, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is seeking public comments on the threat posed by global warming and possible ways to address the issue. The action effectively places the decision of how to regulate GHG emissions in the hands of the next president and Congress.
Senate republicans and democrats continue to have major differences over tax legislation, which is holding up retroactive extension of the Research and Development Tax Credit which expired in December 2007. SEMA and other groups have been lobbying Congress to restore the tax credit and make it permanent. While there is general agreement that the credit should be renewed, there is disagreement on how it should be financed. The democrats want to pay for the credits with revenue-raising measures that are generally opposed by Senate republicans.
The automakers have been given a two-year extension, until October 2010, to comply with requirements that power window switches have a "pull-to-close" design to prevent children from accidentally leaning on a switch and closing a window on their limbs, head or neck. While most new cars and light-duty trucks will have the switches sooner than 2010, a few models may still have recessed or shrouded “rocker” or “toggle” switches.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has expanded the New Car Assessment Program (NCAP) to include a new “overall crashworthiness rating” which combines the front-end, side and rollover test results. Initiated in 1979, the NCAP utilizes a five-star rating system to provide consumers with basic safety information about a new vehicle and foster comparison shopping between different makes and models.
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Alleviating the mounting cost pressure of health care premiums on SEMA members and their workers remains a top SEMA priority. Legislation that would have permitted trade associations to offer small-business health plans (SBHPs) based on national pooling arrangements was narrowly defeated in 2006. Federal lawmakers are still seeking a consensus approach to resolve issues that produced the stalemate two years ago, such as conflicts over federal/state oversight and requiring minimum policy mandates.
SEMA defeated two Hawaii bills that sought to tax vehicle owners in an attempt to reduce motor-vehicle emissions. The first bill would have imposed a new-car surcharge tax, which would have escalated based on carbon emissions. Depending on the vehicle purchased, this surcharge could have required owners to pay up to $2,500 more for the vehicle.
SEMA defeated a bill in the Vermont State Senate that would have implemented a vehicle scrappage program and financed it with a progressive purchase and use tax and higher registration fees for some new motor vehicles based on fuel-efficiency ratings. Funds collected under the program would have been used to dismantle vehicles deemed by the state to be “clunkers,” regardless of their historical value or collector interest.