Law and Order

SEMA News—July 2013

LEGISLATIVE AND TECHNICAL AFFAIRS
By Steve McDonald

Law and Order

Law and Order is an update of some of the most recent federal and state legislative and regulatory issues that could potentially impact the automotive specialty-equipment industry. These include issues affecting small-business owners and their employees.

STATE UPDATE

California Vehicle Retirement Program:

A Senate committee approved legislation to authorize the Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) to provide other forms of financial assistance to an owner to retire a motor vehicle in addition to the $1,500 BAR currently pays to a low-income motor-vehicle owner and the $1,000 to all other motor-vehicle owners. In addition, this bill would require BAR to establish a specified one-year pilot program to provide financial assistance to low-income motor-vehicle owners for the retirement of gross-polluting vehicles but would prohibit the agency from requiring proof that these vehicles were registered for the last two years prior to acceptance into the program. If this effort is successful, hobbyists could be denied the availability of vintage cars and parts for restoration projects.

  Colorado Emissions:

SEMA-supported legislation to extend the new-car emissions inspection exemption from four to seven model years was approved by the Colorado Senate and now moves to the House for consideration.

A Senate amendment moves the implementation date from 2014 to 2016 but keeps the extension in place. Under the bill, the state is also directed to adopt rules that allow for the use of onboard diagnostic testing equipment. An attempt to extend the exemption to vehicles 10 years old and newer was not approved in committee earlier this year.

 

     
Connecticut License Plates:

Legislation to increase the age requirement for vehicles eligible for registration as “antique, rare or special-interest motor vehicles” or “modified antique motor vehicles” will be considered in Connecticut. With opposition from SEMA, legislation that threatened to disallow the use of year-of-manufacture license plates in Connecticut after July 1, 2013, was amended in committee to continue to allow use of these plates.

Under the original bill, the owner of an antique, rare or special-interest motor vehicle who was authorized to display a year-of-manufacture plate could continue to display the plate until the registration period expired. However, the owner would have been required to display a current registration plate upon renewal of registration.

  Connecticut Antique Vehicles:

With opposition from SEMA, legislation that threatened to disallow the use of year-of-manufacture license plates in Connecticut after July 1, 2013, was amended in committee to continue to allow use of these plates.SEMA-opposed legislation to increase the age requirement for vehicles eligible for registration as “antique, rare or special-interest motor vehicles” or “modified antique motor vehicles” was approved by a joint House/Senate committee. Under the bill, vehicles would be required to be at least 30 years old to be registered under these classes. Currently, vehicles 20 years old or older are eligible for this status and special license plates. For the purpose of property taxes, the bill also increases the maximum assessment of these vehicles from $500 to $2,500. The bill will now likely be sent to the House for a vote by all members.

     

Florida Ethanol:

A federal appeals court dismissed on technicalities a lawsuit that challenged the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) authority to permit the sale of 15% ethanol (E15) content in gasoline for ’01 and newer model-year cars and light trucks. Legislation to repeal the requirement that all gasoline offered for sale in the state contain a percentage of ethanol was approved by the Senate. Currently, the Florida Renewable Fuels Standard requires that all gasoline sold or offered for sale by a terminal supplier, importer, blender or wholesaler in Florida contain 9% to 10% ethanol or other alternative fuel by volume. Having already been approved by the House, the SEMA-supported bill has been sent to Governor Rick Scott for his signature and enactment into law.

  Florida Registration Fees:

SEMA is supporting legislation to reduce the annual vehicle registration fees charged for automobiles and light trucks.

The bill was approved by the Senate and now moves to the House floor for a vote by all members. If the legislation is enacted into law, registration fees would be reduced by $2.40 annually until a total decrease of $12 has been achieved.

Slated to begin July 1, 2014, the measure is expected to save Florida taxpayers up to $220 million per year when fully implemented.

     
Idaho Registration Fees:

SEMA-opposed legislation that would have increased annual registration fees for motor vehicles weighing 8,000 lbs. or less died when the legislature adjourned for the year. The fee increase would have varied depending on the age of the vehicle, with owners of newer cars paying the most. Further, these measures made no special exception for hobby cars, such as kits, classics, old timers, replicas, specially constructed vehicles and street rods that constitute a small portion of the vehicle fleet, are infrequently operated and are deserving of lower registration fees.

  Louisiana Ethanol:

SEMA is working with lawmakers to amend legislation that would require a warning label on pumps that dispense gasoline with ethanol to include a reference to “automobiles” in addition to marine engines and lawn equipment. Ethanol does not distinguish between marine engines, lawn equipment and motor vehicles. Ethanol absorbs water, and much of the equipment was produced with materials that do not combat the corrosive effects associated with ethanol.

 

     
Legislation has been introduced in Maryland to require the issuance of only a single license plate for motor vehicles.Maryland Reproduction Plates:

SEMA-supported legislation to require the Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) to provide, for one year, a specially designed vintage reproduction registration plate to qualifying vehicle owners was signed into law by Governor Martin O’Malley. Under the new law, the vehicle must be a passenger, small truck, historic, multipurpose or street-rod vehicle to be eligible to receive a vintage reproduction registration plate. The vintage reproduction plate will be designed to resemble the 1910 Maryland registration plate, which has black lettering on a yellow background. The MVA estimates that the additional cost to obtain the plates would be $20 and would take effect January 1, 2014.

  Maryland License Plate:

Maryland legislation to require the issuance of a single motor-vehicle license plate died when the legislature adjourned for the year.

The bill, favored by state hobbyists, required that the single registration plate be attached on the front of tractors and on the rear of all other vehicles. A second bill to allow the front plate to be stored inside the vehicle if the vehicle was manufactured without a means to secure and display a front plate also died.

     
Nevada Inoperable Vehicles:

Working with Nevada lawmakers, SEMA amended legislation that originally threatened to add abandoned, unregistered, inoperable or junk motor vehicles to the list of items that constitute a public nuisance.

Under existing law, counties and cities may remove a public nuisance at the property owner’s expense if, after notice, the property owner does not remove the nuisance. Under the SEMA-drafted amendment, abandoned, inoperable or junk vehicles stored on private property would require only screening from public view.

Unregistered vehicles could not be declared a nuisance under the SEMA amendment. After being approved by the Assembly, the bill has now been sent to a Senate committee for its consideration.

  The bill ignores the fact that wheels are already marked according to industry standards. New York Wheels:

SEMA is opposing a bill that would require vehicle identification numbers (VIN) on the wheels of all motor vehicles sold in New York. The bill ignores the fact that wheels are already marked according to industry standards. In addition, requiring a VIN marking on the wheel is impractical, since original-equipment and aftermarket wheel manufacturers do not know the vehicle on which the rim will be mounted as it is produced. The U.S. Congress has already determined that wheel marking of this type would impose a huge burden on the wheel makers, automakers and dealers.

     

North Carolina Titles:

Legislation to provide for the prompt issuance of titles to owners of out-of-state motor vehicles that are 35 years old or older was approved by the Senate with amendments. Under the amended bill, the Division of Motor Vehicles will have 15 days to consider performing an inspection and up to 15 days more to issue the title. The SEMA-supported bill has been sent to a House committee for consideration.

 

  North Carolina Headlamps:

Legislation to impose a fine on any person who equips a car with headlamps that “change the original design” was approved by the Senate. The SEMA-opposed bill conflicts with federal law, as standards adopted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are to be performance standards, not design standards. Further, all headlamps, be they manufactured by car manufacturers or in the aftermarket, are required to comply with Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 108. SEMA is working with House lawmakers to amend the bill to conform to federal law.

     
Ohio License Plate:

SEMA-supported legislation has been introduced in Ohio to require that motor vehicles display only a single license plate on the rear of the vehicle. The bill has been referred to a House committee for consideration. The bill would protect the design contours of collector cars and relieve vehicle owners of the burden of having to create mounting holes on some fabricated and original bumpers.

  South Carolina Registration Fees:

SEMA is opposing South Carolina legislation to increase biennial registration fees for motor vehicles. The bill would increase the registration fees for private passenger vehicles, excluding trucks, from $24 to $36 for persons under age 65. For persons 65 years old and older, the fees for private passenger vehicles, excluding trucks, would rise from $20 to $32. In addition, the measure would increase the registration fees for property-carrying vehicles 6,000 lbs. or less from $30 to $42 for persons 65 years old and older. For all other property carrying vehicles, the fees would rise incrementally depending on the vehicle weight. For example, the fees for trucks weighing between 4,001 and 5,000 lbs. would increase from $40 to $53.

     
Washington Inoperable Vehicles:

A version of SEMA-model legislation to prohibit cities or towns from enforcing an ordinance that prevents automobile collectors from pursuing their hobby was denied further consideration by a House committee after initial review. The bill had been substantially amended and passed by the Senate before being sent to the House. Under the original bill, inoperable vehicles stored on private property would have required only screening from public view. Six or fewer 30-year-old and older vehicles, including one parts car, would have been permitted for hobby-vehicle restoration. Under the amended bill, however, private restorers would have been limited to only three 30-year-old and older vehicles that are being actively restored. The amended bill also placed the burden of proving compliance on the property owner by “preponderance of the evidence.” SEMA did not support the amended bill but looks forward to the opportunity to work with lawmakers in 2014 to craft legislation beneficial to the automobile hobby.

  West Virginia Antique/Classic Taxes:

SEMA-opposed legislation to increase property taxes paid by owners of antique motor vehicles died when the West Virginia legislature adjourned for the year.

Under the bill, each of these cars would have been assessed at $5,000 for purposes of the tax, which would have penalized antique vehicle owners whose cars are worth less than $5,000. The actual maximum tax paid would have been $150. Separate legislation to exempt motor vehicles that are older than 25 years from personal property taxes also died. Under the bill, these vehicles could not have been used for daily transportation.

     
West Virginia Off-Road Vehicles: West Virginia Off-Road Vehicles:

Legislation to approve a regulation allowing off-road vehicles to operate on trails included in the Hatfield-McCoy Recreation Area was signed into law by Governor Earl Ray Tomblin. These trails were previously restricted to all-terrain vehicles, utility terrain vehicles and motorcycles.

  Colorado Emissions:

SEMA-supported legislation to extend the new-car emissions inspection exemption from four to seven model years was approved by the Colorado Senate and now moves to the House for consideration.

A Senate amendment moves the implementation date from 2014 to 2016 but keeps the extension in place. Under the bill, the state is also directed to adopt rules that allow for the use of onboard diagnostic testing equipment. An attempt to extend the exemption to vehicles 10 years old and newer was not approved in committee earlier this year.

 

     
West Virginia Ethanol:

A resolution urging the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to revoke its decision to allow the sale of gasoline with 15% ethanol until there is clear and convincing scientific evidence that it does not pose a risk to any gasoline-powered vehicle died when the legislature adjourned for the year.

Current high-performance specialty parts, along with pre-’01 cars and parts, may be most susceptible to ethanol corrosion. Approximately 517,000 motor vehicles currently in West Virginia are from the pre-’01 era.

 

In cooperation with Wisconsin’s collector-vehicle community, legislation has been introduced to allow minor modifications to collector vehicles, exempt former military vehicles, historic military vehicles and collector vehicles from importer certification label requirements and expand rights for historic military-vehicle owners.Wisconsin Collector Cars:

In cooperation with Wisconsin’s collector-vehicle community, legislation has been introduced to allow minor modifications to collector vehicles, exempt former military vehicles, historic military vehicles and collector vehicles from importer certification label requirements and expand rights for historic military-vehicle owners. The measure seeks to allow modifications to vehicles registered as collector vehicles as long as the body of these vehicles is not modified. Currently, upgrades such as safety glass, radial tires, a radio or hubcaps are reasons to deny registration. This bill will allow changes that retain the spirit of historic authenticity.

     

FEDERAL UPDATE 

   
     
SEMA-supported legislation has been reintroduced in New York to provide that historical-vehicle owners pay only a one-time registration fee of $100 upon initial registration.Collector Car Appreciation Day:

The fourth annual Collector Car Appreciation Day is scheduled for Friday, July 12, 2013. The day serves to focus attention on the vital role automotive restoration and collection plays in American society. Business owners, car clubs and individuals are encouraged to organize events to help celebrate the day. Events on that day or on that weekend will range from informal garage gatherings and barbecues to car shows, cruises and driving your collector car to work. To register your event with the hundreds of others taking place, visit: www.SEMAsan.com/ccad.

   New Health-Care Law:

SEMA has created a webpage with information to help SEMA members understand the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare,” at www.SEMA.org/government-affairs/health-care-law.

The new health-care law is being phased in over a number of years, and January 2014 is the deadline for larger companies (50 or more workers) to offer coverage or pay a penalty.

     
E15 Ethanol:

A SEMA-supported bill has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives to reform the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The current RFS mandates that an increasing amount of ethanol or other biofuels be blended into gasoline each year, levels that are now becoming unattainable in a free marketplace. The levels increase each year, from 9 billion gallons in 2008 to 36 billion gallons by 2022. The RFS has been the driving force behind a decision by the EPA to allow the content of ethanol in gasoline to rise from 10% (E10) to 15% (E15) ethanol. E15 will become the way refiners meet RFS mandates. The legislation would reform the RFS by reducing the mandates and banning E15 in the marketplace. SEMA opposes E15, since many older cars were not constructed with materials that counteract ethanol’s ability to absorb water and cause corrosion.

  Johnson Valley OHV Recreation Area:

SEMA has endorsed a proposal by Rep. Paul Cook (R-CA) that would end a five-year debate on how to expand the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC) base at Twentynine Palms, California. Under the compromise, the Marines would have access to the adjoining Johnson Valley Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) Recreation Area for up to 42 days a year for training exercises. However, the land would be designated a “national” OHV recreation area under the continued management of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. Johnson Valley is the largest OHV area in the United States, totaling nearly 189,000 acres. OHV enthusiasts as well as mountain bikers, equestrians and hunters use the land year-round. The area is also home to numerous motorized events that draw thousands of competitors and spectators to the area every year, including the famous King of the Hammers event. SEMA and the SEMA Action Network (SAN) are urging lawmakers to adopt the solution and enact the legislation into law. SEMA represents thousands of companies that market products for OHV vehicles and, through the SAN, millions of enthusiasts who buy and operate these vehicles.

     
National Monuments and Road Closures:

SEMA-supported legislation has been introduced in the U.S. Congress to require the president to complete an environmental review before designating more than 5,000 acres as a National Monument.

The bill would ensure public involvement in the process and discussion of multiple factors, including economic impact. Current law provides the president with authority to declare land of “historic or scientific interest” to be a National Monument, which can lead to road closures for motorized recreation, among other activities.

While this authority has been used only 137 times in 100 years, vast amounts of land have been set aside in the process. President Obama is now under pressure to establish a 1.4-million-acre “Greater Canyonlands National Monument” in Utah, close 1,050 miles of off-road vehicle trails and monitor another 1,450 miles for future closure. The legislation would ensure public participation in this debate. SEMA supports a collaborative approach to land-use decisions, including input from local citizens, elected leaders and other stakeholders.

  Driver Distraction:

With opposition from SEMA, legislation that threatened to disallow the use of year-of-manufacture license plates in Connecticut after July 1, 2013, was amended in committee to continue to allow use of these plates.The NHTSA has issued guidelines intended to limit the risk of driver distraction from in-vehicle electronic devices that are not directly applicable to driving a car. These voluntary guidelines do not have the effect of law and would apply to original equipment installed in new light-duty vehicles. The electronic devices covered include “information, navigation, communications and entertainment” products that require drivers to take their eyes off the road and hands off the wheel. For example, certain functions, such as inputting an address into a navigation system, text messaging, dialing a phone number or browsing the Internet, would be disabled until the vehicle is in park. Operations that require less than two seconds at one time (12 seconds total to perform) and one hand to achieve would be permitted. In the future, the NHTSA intends to issue a second guidance document for aftermarket products. Such devices include smartphones, electronic tablets and pads and other mobile communications devices.

 

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