LEGISLATIVE AND TECHNICAL AFFAIRS
By Steve McDonald
Law and Order
California Road-Usage Fee: Legislation to establish an advisory committee to study a road-usage fee was signed into law by California Governor Jerry Brown. Under the new law, the group will propose the tax as an alternative to the gas tax and make recommendations on the design of a pilot program. According to supporters, a road-usage fee will distribute the gas tax burden across all vehicles regardless of fuel source and minimize the impact of the current regressive gas tax structure. Opponents believe that the law will penalize national efforts to create a more fuel-efficient vehicle fleet by taxing drivers based on vehicle mileage. As gas tax revenues decrease due to hybrid and electric vehicle ownership, states are looking for new sources of funding for highway maintenance and construction projects.
California Sick Leave: California has joined the state of Connecticut and at least 13 major cities nationwide in enacting legislation to require employers to provide paid sick leave to their employees. Starting July 1, 2015, employees who have worked in the state for at least 30 days must be provided one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours worked. Under the new law, employers can limit the amount of paid sick leave an employee may take within a year to 24 hours (three days). The employee must be permitted to begin using the accrued sick leave at least 90 days from hire. The law covers most employees in California but excludes employees organized under a valid collective bargaining agreement that contains certain provisions, home health-care providers and flight attendants that receive a certain amount of compensated time off.
New Jersey Emissions: Legislation to prohibit retrofitting diesel-powered vehicles to increase particulate emissions has been introduced in both the Assembly and Senate. The bills define “coal rolling” as the practice of intentionally releasing thick, black diesel smoke and soot from smokestacks on specially retrofitted diesel-powered trucks. Under the bills, violators could be fined up to $5,000. It is already a violation of the federal Clean Air Act to manufacture, sell or install a part for a motor vehicle that bypasses, defeats or renders inoperative any emissions-control device.
New Jersey Tires: Legislation has been introduced to require the date of manufacture for all tires sold in the state to be posted at the point of sale. The bill also requires information concerning the risks associated with tires that are more than 10 years old to be provided. Under the bill, violators would be fined not more than $10,000 for a first offense and not more than $20,000 for any subsequent offense. The federal government has not issued a safety standard based on tire age, noting that tires have become more robust in recent years as a result of increased performance mandates. Mandatory tire-pressure monitoring systems installed on newer vehicles are also credited with having helped alert motorists when tires are underinflated.
Collector Car Appreciation Day: SEMA announced that the next Collector Car Appreciation Day will be celebrated on July 10, 2015. The date marks the sixth consecutive commemoration in what has become an annual event to raise awareness of the vital role automotive restoration and collection plays in American society. SEMA and its councils will once again seek a Congressional resolution to recognize the day’s significance. The industry endeavors to preserve our nation’s automotive heritage while providing well-paying, high-skilled jobs nationwide. Intended to celebrate the classics of the past and the future, Collector Car Appreciation Day is a singular tribute to the collector-car industry and the millions of hobbyists it supports.
San Gabriel Mountains National Monument: President Obama designated 346,000 acres of the San Gabriel Mountains northeast of Los Angeles as a national monument. The land is located within the Angeles and San Bernardino National Forests in Southern California. While the action does not immediately close any roads, it prohibits new roads or trails for motorized vehicles and will require drafting of a new land-management plan. It is the 13th designation by President Obama, which includes two national monuments in New Mexico totaling nearly 750,000 acres. Under current law, the President has the authority to declare public land with “historic or scientific interest” to be a national monument. SEMA supports a bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives that would place limits on that authority. Under the bill, the President could declare a monument less than 5,000 acres, but that declaration would need Congressional approval within three years. A larger parcel of land would require a National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) study, thereby ensuring public input. The bill is pending consideration in the U.S. Senate.
Workplace Injury Reports: The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) issued a final rule requiring employers to notify OSHA within eight hours when a worker has been killed on the job and within 24 hours when an employee suffers a work-related hospitalization, amputation or loss of an eye. Under the old rule, notification about work-related hospitalizations covered three or more employees, not one. The new reporting rule applies to all employers governed by OSHA, even those companies that are otherwise exempt from maintaining injury and illness records. OSHA has also created a new online method for filing electronic reports.
Bonneville Salt Flats (BSF): The Save the Salt Coalition organized a 2,000-ton dry salt laydown last summer at the end of the access road to the BSF. The salt was packed to a concrete-hard surface, and the project demonstrated that this is a successful approach for repairing the racing tracks. The coalition plans to repeat and expand the effort prior to next year’s racing season. It will also continue to explore other options for improving conditions at the historic venue for land speed records.