Law & Order

ONE-CENT POSTAGE INCREASE BEGINS MAY 12

The cost of a first-class stamp will rise by $.01 to $.42, starting on May 12. Under a 2006 law reorganizing the U.S. Postal Service, the agency will now adjust postal prices on a yearly basis at a rate tied to inflation. The law change was intended to provide predictability and price protection. The inflation rate since last May’s first class mail increase was 2.9%. While the mailing cost for the first ounce of a first-class letter rises by a $.01, the price of each added ounce will remain $.17 (i.e. a two-ounce letter will go up a penny to &.59).

REARWARD-VIEWING CAMERAS AND SENSORS TO BECOME STANDARD EQUIPMENT ON NEW CARS

The U.S. Congress passed legislation designed to protect children from injuries or deaths in non-traffic vehicle incidents. President Bush is expected to sign the bill (HR 1216) into law. The measure directs the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to require new vehicles be equipped with a means of alerting the driver if a child is behind the vehicle when it is being backed-up. The specialty-equipment industry has been at the forefront of offering cameras and sensors to address the issue. 

OFF-ROADERS GAIN MORE ACCESS TO CALIFORNIA DUNES

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) ruled that 12,000 acres of the Imperial Sand Dunes Recreation Area in California must be closed to the public so as to protect the Peirson’s milk-vetch plant. The agency excluded 10,000 acres of dunes where most off-road activities take place. The plant was placed on the endangered species list in 1998 and the FWS was required to designate critical habitat to protect the plant on land which is managed by the Bureau of Land Management.

HAWAII TARGETS VEHICLE ENGINE SIZE FOR ADDITIONAL FEE

Legislation has been introduced in the Hawaii House of Representatives to establish a progressive fee for state motor vehicles based on engine size. These fees would be collected by the state at the time of initial vehicle registration and at subsequent renewals of registration.

These fees would be in addition to fees and taxes normally required for registration or renewal. The measure would tax vehicle owners with an engine size greater than 200 cu. cm., and the fee would increase depending on engine displacement.

ECONOMIC STIMULUS INCLUDES TAX INCENTIVES FOR BUSINESSES

The economic stimulus measure passed by Congress and to be signed into law by President Bush includes several important business tax breaks. The new law includes both a temporary increase in the first-year direct-expensing allowance and a bonus depreciation deduction of 50% for 2008. The direct expensing allowance increases to $250,000 from the current level of $128,000. The new law also provides an increase in the phase-out cap based on total equipment purchases in a year, rising to $800,000 from the current $510,000. 

Here is an example on how the tax breaks work:

LABOR DEPARTMENT SEEKS TO CLARIFY FAMILY AND MEDICAL LEAVE RULES

The Department of Labor (DOL) has proposed changes to regulations governing the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to address gray areas in the law. One such issue has been the need to have more concise rules on managing unscheduled intermittent leave. Under the current and proposed rule, employers would define the smallest amount of time that can be tracked using the company’s timekeeping system.

NHTSA ENDORSES PLAN TO PERMIT ELECTRONIC TIRE REGISTRATION

Last year, SEMA joined with the Rubber Manufacturers Association, Tire Industry Association and National Automobile Dealers Association in recommending that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) update its tire registration regulations to allow consumers to register their tire purchases electronically rather than by mailing back a paper registration form.

FEDERAL GOVERNMENT PROPOSES NEW ROOF CRUSH TEST

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has reissued a proposal it made in 2005 to revise the vehicle roof strength standard, Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 216. The new version would require manufacturers to design vehicle roofs that withstand at least 2.5 times the weight of the vehicle during a two-sided roof strength test as an alternative to testing just one side. 

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