Law and Order

SEMA News—August 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

Arkansas Racing Facilities:

Legislation to require the consent of only 38% of property owners and registered voters within three miles of a proposed motor-vehicle racing facility before construction of the facility can begin died when the legislature adjourned for the year.

Currently, construction requires the approval of 75% of property owners and voters. Among other things, the bill recognized that the racing industry supports thousands of jobs and generates millions of dollars of economic benefit for local businesses and communities.

 

California Vehicle Retirement Program:

California lawmakers are working with SEMA on amendments to legislation that would authorize the state to provide other forms of financial assistance to an owner to retire a motor vehicle. Under the original bill, this assistance would be in addition to the $1,500 currently paid to a low-income motor-vehicle owner and the $1,000 to all other motor-vehicle owners. In addition, the bill would require the state 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.

     

Colorado Emissions:

SEMA-supported legislation to extend the new-car emissions inspection exemption from four to seven model years was passed by the Colorado Senate but died in the House when the legislature adjourned for the year. An amendment approved by the Senate had moved the implementation date from 2014 to 2016 but kept the extension in place. Separate legislation to extend the exemption to vehicles 10 years old and newer was not approved in committee earlier this year.

Florida Registration Fees:

Legislation to reduce the annual registration fees charged for automobiles and light trucks died when the legislature adjourned without the House having voted on the bill. Under the measure, which had been approved by the Senate, registration fees would have been reduced by $2.40 annually until a total decrease of $12 had been achieved, saving Florida taxpayers up to $220 million per year when fully implemented.

 

 

Legislation that originally threatened to increase the age requirement for vehicles eligible for registration as “antique, rare or special-interest motor vehicles” or “modified antique motor vehicles” and increase the maximum property tax assessment for these vehicles from $500 to $2,500 has been favorably substituted and sent to the floor of the House for a vote by all members. Connecticut Antique Vehicles:

Legislation that originally threatened to increase the age requirement for vehicles eligible for registration as “antique, rare or special-interest motor vehicles” or “modified antique motor vehicles” and increase the maximum property tax assessment for these vehicles from $500 to $2,500 has been favorably substituted and sent to the floor of the House for a vote by all members. The substitute bill does not change the current 20-year age requirement for these hobby vehicles but changes only the current available property tax exemptions for all motor vehicles. Under the measure, starting July 1, 2019, vehicle owners would not have to pay taxes on vehicles valued at $20,000 and under but would still have to pay taxes for vehicles valued at greater than $20,000. The substitute does not remove the current pro-hobby limits on the valuation of antiques/rare/special-interest vehicles.

     

Florida Tires:

SEMA-opposed legislation to require tire retailers to provide a written disclosure on a used tire’s age—including the week and year the tire was manufactured—died when the legislature adjourned for the year. The bill also required the disclosure to include a statement on tire aging explaining that tire age can contribute to crashes and that tires should be replaced every six years. Tire manufacturers that sell product in the United States comply with the strictest government tire-safety testing standards in the world. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has been studying tire aging for years and has yet to conclude that any regulatory action is needed. SEMA recommends that consumers have tires, including the spare, inspected regularly. Tire-inflation pressure should be checked and properly adjusted at least once a month to maintain safety and fuel economy.

 

Maine Ethanol:

Legislation that originally prohibited the sale and distribution of any corn-based ethanol if at least two other New England states passed a similar prohibition was amended and approved by the Maine Legislature. Under the amendment, 10 other states or a number of states with a collective population of 30,000,000 would have to pass the prohibition before the Maine law could go into effect.

The measure will now be sent to the governor for his signature and enactment into law. Legislation to prohibit a person from selling gasoline that contains corn-based ethanol as an additive at a level greater than 10% by volume (E10) was already signed into law by Governor Paul LePage. The law will not take effect until at least two other New England states have also enacted laws that effectively ban the sale of E15 gasoline.

     

Missouri Miles Traveled:

A SEMA-opposed resolution to impose a vehicle-miles-traveled tax on state motorists died without consideration when the legislature adjourned for the year.A SEMA-opposed resolution to impose a vehicle-miles-traveled tax on state motorists died without consideration when the legislature adjourned for the year. Under the resolution, beginning January 1, 2015, the state would have charged and collected a “miles driven“ fee in the amount of $200 for a one-year registration and $400 for a two-year registration to each owner registering or renewing the registration of a motor vehicle. Had it been approved, this proposed amendment to the state constitution would have gone on a statewide ballot for a popular vote of the citizens. If favored by a simple majority, this tax would have become part of the constitution.

 

California Vehicle Retirement Program:

California lawmakers are working with SEMA on amendments to legislation that would authorize the state to provide other forms of financial assistance to an owner to retire a motor vehicle.

Under the original bill, this assistance would be in addition to the $1,500 currently paid to a low-income motor-vehicle owner and the $1,000 to all other motor-vehicle owners.

In addition, the bill would require the state 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.

     

Missouri License Plates:

Missouri legislation to require the issuance of only a single license plate for motor vehicles died when the legislature adjourned for the year.

The bill, favored by state hobbyists, also applied to personalized plates. Had it been enacted into law, the measure would still have accommodated registered owners eligible to receive a second plate. Further, the measure would have saved money, conserved resources and brought Missouri in line with other states that have moved to a single plate requirement.

 

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 in counties having populations of 700,000 or more people. Unregistered vehicles could not be declared a nuisance under the SEMA amendment. After being approved by the Senate, the bill has now been sent back to the Assembly for concurrence with the amendments.

     
FEDERAL UPDATE

The House Natural Resources Committee approved legislation sponsored by Rep. Paul Cook (R-CA) to preserve off-highway vehicle (OHV) access to Johnson Valley, California, and end a five-year debate on how to expand the U.S. Marine Corps base at Twentynine Palms.Johnson Valley OHV Recreation Area:

The House Natural Resources Committee approved legislation sponsored by Rep. Paul Cook (R-CA) to preserve off-highway vehicle (OHV) access to Johnson Valley, California, and end a five-year debate on how to expand the U.S. Marine Corps base at Twentynine Palms. The bill protects OHV activities by establishing the “Johnson Valley National Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation Area” under the continued control of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. The Marines would have access to the area for up to 60 days a year for training exercises, but the OHV area would be otherwise preserved. The bill will now be considered by the House Armed Services Committee, chaired by Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon (R-CA), who has co-sponsored the legislation. Johnson Valley is the largest OHV area in the United States, totaling nearly 189,000 acres. The land is used year-round by OHV enthusiasts and is home to numerous events that draw thousands of competitors and spectators, including “King of the Hammers.”

 

Off-Highway Vehicle Access to Cape Hatteras National Seashore:

The U.S. House Natural Resources Committee has approved a SEMA-supported bill to reopen Cape Hatteras National Seashore in North Carolina to OHV recreation. It has been sent to the House Judiciary Committee for further action. The U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is considering a similar bill.

The bills would reverse a 2012 management plan issued by the National Park Service that banned OHV access to large portions of the seashore. Under current restrictions, about 39% of the seashore is closed to OHV recreation, while 42% of the seashore is open year-round and 19% is open at different times during the year. The legislation would reinstate a previous management strategy that provides a better balance between wildlife protections and responsible off-highway vehicle access. It also protects local retail businesses, hotels, restaurants and campgrounds that have been seen a negative economic impact because of reduced visits by OHV enthusiasts.

     

A federal appeals court struck down a rule issued by the National Labor Relations Board instructing employers to display an 11x17-in. poster informing workers of their right to unionize and bargain collectively.“Employee Rights” Poster:

A federal appeals court struck down a rule issued by the National Labor Relations Board instructing employers to display an 11x17-in. poster informing workers of their right to unionize and bargain collectively. The poster requirement was originally scheduled to take effect in 2011 but was placed on hold by a lower court. The rule is widely opposed by business groups, including SEMA, over concerns that it unfairly promotes unionization.

 

California Vehicle Retirement Program:

California lawmakers are working with SEMA on amendments to legislation that would authorize the state to provide other forms of financial assistance to an owner to retire a motor vehicle. Under the original bill, this assistance would be in addition to the $1,500 currently paid to a low-income motor-vehicle owner and the $1,000 to all other motor-vehicle owners. In addition, the bill would require the state 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.

     

“Comp Time” Bill:

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to allow private-sector employees who work more than 40 hours a week the choice of taking “comp” time rather than pay. The SEMA-supported legislation is intended to provide flexibility in the workplace. However, no action is anticipated in the Senate, based on concerns that workers could be coerced into taking time off rather than pay. Under the Fair Labor Standards Act, hourly employees must be paid time and a half after 40 hours of work. Many public sector employees already have the right to earn comp time instead of pay.

 

Health-Care Law:

January 1, 2014, is the deadline for larger companies (50 or more workers) to offer coverage or pay a penalty under the Affordable Care Act.

There is no requirement for smaller companies to offer coverage. SEMA is providing additional deadlines and details regarding the new health care law at www.sema.org/government-affairs/health-care-law.

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