SEMA News—September 2012
LEGISLATIVE AND TECHNICAL AFFAIRS
By Steve McDonald
Law and Order
Iowa Ethanol/Exhaust Systems/Historic Registration: SEMA-opposed legislation that would have required only E85 ethanol gas pump labels died when the legislature adjourned for the year. Current Iowa law requires labeling when gasoline is blended with any amount of ethanol. If the bill had been enacted into law, it would have removed labeling requirements for ethanol-blended gasoline containing 15% or less ethanol, thereby increasing the risk of misfueling and potential engine damage. In addition, SEMA-model legislation that would have allowed Iowa’s vehicle hobbyists to install and use aftermarket-modified exhaust systems that meet a 95-decibel limit was not given committee consideration before the legislature adjourned for the year. Similarly, a bill to allow any vehicle that is 25 years old or older and used only for exhibition, entertainment or educational purposes to be registered for a minimal annual $5 fee was not given consideration.
Michigan Historic Vehicles: Governor Rick Snyder signed into law a SEMA-supported bill that allows unlimited use of historic motor vehicles during the month of August. Under previous Michigan law, use of historic vehicles was limited to participation in club activities, exhibitions, tours, parades and similar uses, including mechanical testing, but not for general transportation. The law provides Michigan historic vehicle owners with the opportunity to enjoy recreational driving during August in addition to the other sanctioned uses. The law also acknowledges the immeasurable time and money automotive hobbyists—especially historic vehicle owners—invest in their cars.
New York/West Virginia/Idaho/Manitoba Collector Car Appreciation Day: The New York State Assembly approved a resolution prompting Governor Andrew Cuomo to proclaim July 13, 2012, as Collector Car Appreciation Day in the state. In addition, Idaho Governor Butch Otter and West Virginia Governor Earl Ray Tomblin issued proclamations recognizing the celebration, while the Manitoba Minister of Culture, Heritage and Tourism designated July 13, 2012, as Collector Car Appreciation Day and the month of July as Collector Car Appreciation Month in the province. These states and province join New Mexico and Hawaii as jurisdictions that officially acknowledged the day. Earlier this year, the U.S. Senate passed Senate Resolution 452 at SEMA’s request to raise awareness of the vital role automotive restoration and collection plays in American society. The date marked the third commemoration in what has become an annual event.
New York Hobbyist Bills: At adjournment of this year’s legislative session, the New York State Legislature failed to complete action on a series of bills that would have had an impact on the automotive hobby. Among these bills were measures to allow historical vehicle owners to pay only a one-time registration fee of $100 upon initial registration; SEMA-model legislation to create a vehicle titling and registration classification for street rods and custom vehicles; legislation to provide for the issuance of special historic vehicle plates to be issued to owners for display on a trailer towing the historic vehicle; and a SEMA-opposed bill to establish a progressive purchase surcharge for some new motor vehicles based on state calculations of carbon emissions.
Highway Bill and Auto Safety Measures: After months of negotiations and short-term extensions, Congress passed a sweeping $120 billion package to fund highway construction and other transportation projects for the next two years. The spending is financed by the current 18.4¢-per-gallon gas tax and the 24.4-¢-per-gallon diesel tax along with $19 billion in general treasury funds. The new law funds state programs to reduce distracted and impaired driving and increase seatbelt use. It also increases the civil penalties for defective or noncompliant vehicles and equipment, although lawmakers dropped some of the more onerous provisions opposed by SEMA and the automakers, such as mandatory installation of event data recorders. The law also includes $85 million in funding for the SEMA-supported Recreational Trails Program (RTP), which provides funds to states to develop and maintain motorized and non-motorized recreational trails. SEMA joined with several off-road enthusiast organizations to maintain RTP funding in the final highway bill.
Global Rule for Auto Glass: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is proposing changes to Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 205, Glazing Materials, so that it will conform with a global glazing standard. The changes modernize the test procedures for tempered glass, laminated glass and glass-plastic glazing used in front and rear windshields and side windows. According to the agency, the changes include an upgraded fragmentation test for curved tempered glass and a new procedure for testing an optical property of the windshield at the angle of installation to better reflect real-world driving conditions. Glazing intended for aftermarket replacements would need to meet the revised FMVSS No. 205, except glazing produced for vehicles manufactured prior to November 1, 2006. In that case, the manufacturer has the option of complying with the previous standards, FMVSS No. 205(a).
Greenhouse Gases: A federal court upheld a finding by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that greenhouse gases contribute to global warming and threaten public health. The court ruling allows the EPA to limit emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases through new regulations for vehicle tailpipe emissions and large stationary source emitters. For tailpipe emissions, the EPA, the NHTSA and the California Air Resources Board agreed to regulate CO2 within the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards, since CO2 emissions are directly proportional to the amount of carbon fuel burned. The EPA also intends to regulate the largest stationary source emitters (power plants, refineries, iron and steel mills, pulp and paper mills, etc.) by requiring them to potentially install the best available control technology and obtain permits that track emissions. For a number of years, Congress has struggled to enact legislation that would change the agency’s approach. There are many options, from removing the EPA’s authority to regulate CO2 to implementing an emissions-trading scheme or a carbon tax and everything in between. SEMA remains concerned that the current rules will translate into higher energy costs and lower economic growth while not substantially addressing global warming and that future regulations will target medium and smaller operations.