The laws and regulations that govern how SEMA members do business have a continuous impact on the way automotive specialty-equipment products are made, distributed and marketed. The charge of the SEMA government affairs office is to stay on top of all relevant state and federal legislation and regulations and advocate for industry positions to ensure the best possible outcome for SEMA’s membership. The following are a few examples of critical legislative/regulatory issues addressed by the SEMA government affairs team over the past year.
The California Coastal Commission voted to make no changes to a permit that allows off-highway vehicle (OHV) use at the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Area. The commission voted against a prohibition on night riding, additional fencing to restrict OHV use, eliminating unlimited OHV use on holidays, and increased enforcement efforts focused on vehicle use and speed limit. The commission also voted down a proposal to provide year-round protection to a 300-acre endangered species area (which is currently protected on a seasonal basis) and future closures for the purpose of dust control.
Delaware Governor John Carney signed into law a bill easing the process of registering a street rod by favorably changing the existing age and equipment requirements. The new law amends the definition of street rod from a vehicle manufactured before ’70 to one 25 years old or older. The law also removes the requirement that a street rod’s tires be covered by fenders.
Companies without any physical presence in a state can now be required to collect sales tax based on their sales volume. In June 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of a South Dakota state law requiring remote sellers to collect sales tax. (The term “remote” applies to internet, catalog and telephone sales, along with other types of transactions.) The court overturned the 1992 Quill decision, which required a physical presence to create “substantial nexus,” thereby allowing state sales tax collections.
It’s the dawn of a new era at SEMA’s Political Action Committee (SEMA PAC). After more than a decade of exemplary service as the chairman of the industry’s legislative watchdog, PAC Chairman Doug Evans officially handed over the reins to John Hotchkis of Hotchkis Performance.
The U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) sent President Trump the results of its investigation on whether imported automobiles and auto parts pose a threat to U.S. national security. A decision on whether to impose tariffs, originally due in May, was postponed until November. President Trump wanted to give U.S. negotiators six months to reach new trade agreements with the European Union and Japan.
It should come as no surprise that new proposals threatening cars and trucks can be of significant concern to automotive enthusiasts, who face the task of customizing and preserving classic cars while staying within evolving legal limits. History has shown that even well-intended bills can have a detrimental effect on the automotive community—but it’s also true that focused constituent awareness can often make a difference.
For most of the country’s automotive enthusiasts, drilling holes into the front bumper of a prized possession is both a sad and unavoidable occurrence. To them, the legal mandate to equip a license plate on their front bumper is like painting a mustache on the Mona Lisa.
Those who say Congress never gets anything done and politicians are all talk and no action are frequently proven correct. The greatest obstacle to passing legislation in the 21st century in Washington, D.C., is the unwillingness to compromise. Every now and again, however, Congress comes together and embraces the philosophy of “a good compromise is when neither side is happy.”
The global trading system has the potential to foster economic growth and support peaceful relations between nations. If it breaks down, it can lead to confrontation as countries seek to shield their domestic industries. Tariffs can be a powerful tool for leveling the playing field or, conversely, lead to trade wars and protectionism. The Trump Administration is using tariffs to strengthen its hand in trade negotiations with its trading partners. Is the strategy working?