SEMA News—August 2012
LEGISLATIVE AND TECHNICAL AFFAIRS
SEMA Members React to a Legacy of Legislative Successes
SEMA maintains an experienced government affairs staff in Washington, D.C., to further the priority policies of the SEMA membership. Whether it is protecting a niche marketplace from an unnecessary regulatory burden or expanding sales opportunities through proactive legislation, the government affairs team is dedicated to helping members succeed and prosper.
The following are just a few examples of critical legislative/regulatory issues that the government affairs office was involved in over the past several years. How do these successes impact the members? For that, we’ve asked SEMA members to respond directly.
California Exhaust-Noise Testing Program
Since 2003, California has been operating a motor-vehicle exhaust-noise testing program. The program—a product of a SEMA-sponsored law—equips state motorists to fight unfair exhaust-noise citations issued by law enforcement officers. Owners can prove that their vehicles comply with state noise standards, and courts can dismiss citations for exhaust systems that have been tested and for which a certificate of compliance has been issued. Under the program, referee stations issue certificates of compliance for vehicles when tests of their exhaust systems demonstrate under SAE test procedure J1169 that they emit no more than 95 decibels.
“Any kind of arbitrary legislation that leaves the resolution of some of these types of activities to the sole judgment of a policeman or an individual is always harmful. Having a system in place that everybody can depend upon and that establishes a benchmark for all of the manufacturers to strive toward is a plus.”
CEO, Borla Performance Industries
Cash for Clunkers
In 2009, SEMA persuaded Congress to place a 25-year limit on trade-in cars and expand recycling opportunities under “Cash for Clunkers” legislation. Under the controversial law, consumers were able to receive a voucher to help buy a new car in exchange for scrapping a less-fuel-efficient vehicle. SEMA also convinced lawmakers to permit drivetrains of scrapped cars to be recycled if the transmissions, driveshafts or rearends were sold as separate parts.
“SEMA worked to get a limit on the age of the cars affected and influenced a lot of legislators to limit the damage. The SEMA legislative and regulatory programs are among the best benefits that the association’s members receive. SEMA has done an excellent job of being proactive with legislation, and that has helped us a lot.”
President, Steele Rubber Products
Collector Car Appreciation Day
In 2010, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution at SEMA’s request designating the second Friday in July as Collector Car Appreciation Day. Now in its third year, the effort was undertaken to raise awareness of the vital role automotive restoration and collection plays in American society.
“Collector Car Appreciation Day helps to bring the glory of vintage vehicles to the forefront of the national news. This event helps the hobby and strengthens the entire collector-car industry. Helping lawmakers understand that the automotive specialty-equipment market creates jobs and helps keep the American economy vibrant is vital to our future success.”
CEO, Egge Machine Co.
In an effort to mitigate legislation to ban the installation of power-booster systems, including nitrous-oxide systems intended for off-road use, SEMA devised a model bill to provide for the operation of a vehicle equipped for nitrous oxide, so long as the nitrous oxide is disconnected from the engine when the vehicle is operated on public roadways. SEMA has been successful in getting the model bill enacted in multiple states and Canadian provinces.
“With SEMA’s help in educating these government authorities, a compromise bill was developed to control the use of nitrous oxide. The model bill helps our customers understand what the laws regulating nitrous usage actually are, and they are able to use this knowledge to purchase our products and operate them without fear of undue interference from the authorities.”
Owner, Nitrous Express
Many states and localities are currently enforcing or attempting to legislate strict property or zoning laws that include restrictions on visible inoperable automobiles and parts. Removal of these vehicles from private property is often enforced through local nuisance laws with minimal or no notice to the owner. Many such laws are drafted broadly, allowing for the confiscation of vehicles being repaired or restored. In response, SEMA drafted its own inoperable-vehicle bill that is fair to restorers while still considerate of neighbors. The model bill simply states that project vehicles and their parts must only be maintained or stored outside of “ordinary public view.”
“From 2000–2007, things really took off in the industry. Because of all the restoration parts that were developed during those times, many cars that were once considered to be only good for salvaging parts now became rebuildable cars. Through SEMA’s efforts, legislation allowed the builders to avoid confiscation of those types of cars by keeping them stored out of public view. If we had not had those extra cars for our customers, we never would have invested in the new tooling to develop more new parts. SEMA’s help allowed a lot more cars to stay in circulation, and increased visibility equals increased sales and more interest in our industry.”
Owner, Ames Automotive Enterprises
In 2003, SEMA successfully argued that bias tires should continue to be regulated under current federal testing standards and not a newly created standard that has stricter performance requirements. SEMA also persuaded California legislators to amend a bill creating a tire fuel-efficiency program to exempt limited-production tires, deep-tread snow tires, limited-use spares, motorcycle tires and tires manufactured for use on off-road vehicles from the scope of the law and subsequent regulation.
“SEMA did a wonderful job of educating potential regulators that tougher standards on the very small niche use of bias tires would cost more and could kill an industry along with thousands of jobs while creating little impact on air quality. I am proud to be involved with SEMA for precisely these reasons.”
Owner, Coker Tire Co.
California Executive Order Program
When no methods existed for compliance with California’s emissions anti-tampering requirements, SEMA set about to create and implement what became known as the California Air Resources Board’s (CARB) Executive Order (E.O.) program. With state regulators, SEMA developed a program that allowed parts manufacturers to obtain CARB approval for products by a method that minimized levels of testing, provided reasonable testing criteria and limited the amount of administrative paperwork. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has acknowledged this program as satisfying federal anti-tampering requirements as well, enabling products legal for sale in California to be legal in the other 49 states.
“SEMA took the role of helping to educate the industry on emissions compliance. Absent that involvement, it would still be a muddy process. There is now a better working relationship between SEMA, CARB and the EPA. Because of the EPA’s acceptance now of an E.O. as a reasonable basis to meeting their requirements in the Clean Air Act, more and more states are adopting legislation that is either the mirror image of or very close to what CARB has in California.”
President, McFarland Consulting
Optional lighting equipment is not prohibited by federal law but is sometimes regulated by the states. Over the years, SEMA has opposed any use limitations or prohibitions on optional lighting equipment or accessories not related to a proven safety hazard. In addition, SEMA has pressed for states to allow the installation and use of optional lighting equipment not specifically banned by state law or regulation.
“The general rule of thumb has been that optional lighting cannot interfere with the operation and/or function of lighting required by Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. However, when some states began to encroach on federal regulatory turf, SEMA was very effective in lobbying to have unenforceable or unreasonable proposed lighting laws struck down. In addition, technology is often ahead of the more reactive legislative and regulatory processes, so the regulations need to be reconciled with the latest technologies every now and then. SEMA took a leadership role and worked with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the states to identify the significant advantages of the new technologies, address any potential abuses of the regulations and update regulations that allowed for reasonable lighting modifications.”
Senior Automotive Executive
Emissions Test Exemptions
For years, SEMA has successfully convinced policy makers to establish exemptions from inspections for low-mileage vehicles, classic vehicles (defined as 25 years old and older) and newer vehicles. Emissions from this small portion of the vehicle fleet are negligible, especially considering the low miles typically driven by hobby vehicles and the excellent condition in which these vehicles are maintained.
“On the surface, limiting emissions is like mom and apple pie, and who wouldn’t be for that? However, when you realize that applying today’s emissions standards to classic cars would virtually kill the hobby along with an entire industry—coupled with the fact that the emissions from these vehicles are negligible in the grand scheme of things—it just doesn’t make sense. SEMA’s role in bringing these facts to light and guiding legislation along a more rational and hobby/industry-friendly path is imperative. SEMA’s approach in these situations is also one of “helping the government do the right thing” rather than being blatantly adversarial, and I believe that’s why SEMA’s government affairs staff has been so successful in its efforts.”
CEO and President, MadStache
Model Street Rod/Custom Vehicle Titling
To date, 22 states have enacted into law a version of SEMA-model legislation to create a vehicle titling and registration classification for street rods and custom vehicles. Kit cars and replica vehicles are assigned certificates of title bearing the same model-year designations as the production vehicles they most closely resemble. The new law allows for the use of non-original materials, provides for special license plates and exempts street rods and customs from emissions test requirements.
“The SEMA-model street rod and custom bill has immensely benefitted our business and the industry partners from whom we buy our parts and services. Without this bill, owners were not able to properly register and title their hot rods and kit cars with the state after completion. The bill has also allowed us to grow our businesses due to the fact that customers now have a defined method to title their specialty hobby cars.”
CEO, Superformance LLC