LEGISLATIVE AND TECHNICAL AFFAIRS
Law and Order
California Smog Test: The Assembly Transportation Committee will consider legislation to allow the owner of a motor vehicle that is subject to the smog-check program to pay a $200 smog-abatement fee in lieu of passing a smog test. Existing law exempts specified vehicles from inspection, including motor vehicles manufactured prior to the ’76 model year. The bill allows the owner of a motor vehicle that is required to take a smog test to pay a smog abatement fee of $200 if the motor vehicle is 30 or more model years old, was manufactured during or after the ’76 model year, fails a smog test and fails a subsequent smog test after necessary repairs were made.
California “Made in U.S.A.”: A bill to amend the California law governing “Made in U.S.A.” labeling was approved by an Assembly committee and is now on the floor of the Assembly for a vote by all members. Under current law, the standard in California for designating products as “Made in U.S.A.” is different and more onerous than the standard established by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The FTC allows manufacturers to display the “Made in U.S.A.” designation on products that are “all or virtually all” made in the United States. California has put in place a different standard requiring that the product and all its subcomponents be entirely or substantially produced in the United States in order to be labeled as “Made in U.S.A.” This bill, supported by SEMA, would resolve this discrepancy.
California Labeling: SEMA is opposing legislation to require manufacturers of designated consumer products, including automotive products, to include all ingredients on the product label and online on the manufacturer’s website. The bill was narrowly approved by the Assembly Business and Professions Committee and was sent to the Appropriations Committee for consideration. Currently, ingredients in automotive products are not required to be listed on product labels. This bill would make it a crime to manufacture, distribute and sell at retail or wholesale automotive products after July 1, 2016, that do not have a label listing all ingredients and a manufacturer webpage address at which product ingredient information can also be found. The measure would apply to products for maintaining the appearance of a vehicle, including products for washing, waxing, polishing, cleaning or treating the exterior or interior surfaces of a vehicle, but excluding automotive paint and paint repair products.
Georgia Headlights: A bill to require motor-vehicle headlights to emit only “white light” was not considered in committee before the legislature adjourned for the year. The measure also prohibited the use of headlights converted from the original factory light source and the use of high-intensity-discharge replacement bulbs in halogen motor vehicle headlights. SEMA is working with the bill sponsor to amend the bill to conform to the federal lighting standard, to which all
headlamps—both original and aftermarket—are required to comply.
Hawaii Ethanol: Legislation to repeal the requirement that gasoline offered for sale in the state contain a percentage of ethanol was approved by a conference committee comprised of members from the House and Senate. The conference committee’s bill creates an effective date of December 31, 2015. The bill will now be returned to both chambers for a final vote.
Idaho Registration Fees: Legislation that once threatened to increase annual motor-vehicle registration fees by $25 was signed into law by Governor Butch Otter. Under the new law, registration fees for vehicles of all types and ages will be increased by $21.
Iowa Legislation: Several bills introduced in Iowa in 2015 failed to be approved prior to the crossover deadline, when legislation must have passed the original chamber of jurisdiction (House or Senate) and sent to the other for consideration. All of these bills are eligible for consideration in 2016. These bills include legislation that would provide for the issuance of a single, rear-mounted license plate; SEMA-model legislation to allow aftermarket exhaust systems that meet a 95-decibel limit; SEMA-model legislation to permit motor vehicles equipped with nitrous oxide if the system is disconnected when the vehicle is operated on public highways; and SEMA-model legislation to add a vehicle titling and registration classification for
Maine Ethanol: Legislation to amend the law regarding ethanol blended gasoline to provide that a sales and distribution prohibition would take effect if only three other states had enacted similar laws was not approved by the Joint Environment and Natural Resources Committee. Under current Maine law, 10 other states or a number of states with a collective population of 30,000,000 must enact a similar prohibition before the Maine law goes into effect.
Maryland Historic Vehicles: SEMA-opposed legislation to increase the age requirement for vehicles eligible for registration as “historic motor vehicles” died when the legislature adjourned for the year. Under the House version of the bill, the age requirement would have been raised from 20 to at least 30 years old, making it more difficult to register legitimate historic vehicles that are already limited to club activities, exhibitions, tours, parades and occasional pleasure driving. The measure also would have denied all 20- to 30-year-old vehicles certain benefits, including the special historic license plate, reduced registration fees and exemptions from equipment and emissions inspection requirements. The bill sought to address unsubstantiated claims of abuse without providing any real data. The Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration is already authorized by regulation to suspend the registration of any historic vehicle for use that is inconsistent with the registration requirements.
Maryland Single Plate: Compromise legislation to allow the issuance of only a single license plate to historic vehicles and street rods was approved by the House and Senate and sent to the governor for his signature and enactment into law. Under the compromise bill, historic vehicles and street rods that are 50 years old and older would be eligible to run a single plate. While the amended bill is heavily diluted from the original, it is still an improvement over current law.
Missouri Miles Traveled Tax: Legislation to require the state to charge and collect a miles-driven fee of up to $200 for a one-year vehicle registration and up to $400 for a two-year vehicle registration was introduced. This fee would be charged in addition to all other registration fees and would not replace the gas tax. In addition to creating privacy concerns, the bill seeks to 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 pet projects.
Nevada Classic Vehicles: Legislation to alter the requirements for vehicles eligible for registration as a “classic vehicle” was amended and approved by the Nevada Assembly Transportation Committee. Under the amendment, only vehicles manufactured prior to ’96 would be eligible for a classic-vehicle registration. Currently, vehicles 25 years old and older are eligible. The bill also changes the depreciation schedule for the governmental services tax to provide that passenger vehicles and trucks will be valued at 10% less of their initial value than they are currently valued. A separate bill to repeal the emissions-test exemption for all classic vehicles, classic rods, street rods and old-timer vehicles was also approved. Under that bill, all vehicles manufactured before ’96 would instead be exempted. These bills contain a mixture of pro- and anti-hobby provisions.
New Hampshire Antique Trucks: Legislation to include trucks more than 25 years old (regardless of weight) in the definition of eligible “antique motor vehicles” was approved by the full Senate. Having already been approved by the House, the bill will now be sent to the governor for her signature and enactment into law. The SEMA-supported bill provides the option for older trucks to take advantage of the many accommodations available to antique motor vehicles.
North Dakota Vehicle Modifications: A bill that originally sought to increase the population of vehicles prohibited from modifying the manufacturer’s original suspension, steering or brake system was heavily amended, approved by the North Dakota Legislature and signed into law by Governor Jack Dalrymple. The new law extends the modified-vehicle provisions to all registered vehicles in the state. The previous law applied only to vehicles weighing 7,000 lbs. or less. The law also reduces the severity of a modified vehicle violation and removes the crime of “operating a modified vehicle” from the list for which law enforcement may take a driver into custody. Some of the specifications that modified vehicles must meet were amended by the law. Tires on modified vehicles must now be marked as required by the U.S. Department of Transportation, and modified vehicles must meet the equipment requirements applicable to all registered vehicles. The law also removes a provision that limited the maximum outside diameter for tires on modified vehicles to 44 in. and another section that restricted the maximum lift in the suspension system of a modified vehicle to 4 in.
Tennessee Emissions: Legislation to extend the emissions inspection exemption for new cars was pending on the floor of the Senate when the legislature adjourned for the year. The bill had previously been approved by the Finance, Ways, and Means Committee and is eligible to be considered again in 2016. An identical House bill is also eligible. Under the bills, all vehicles three years old and newer would be excused regardless of mileage. Current law exempts only new motor vehicles being registered for the first time or one year from initial registration.
Tennessee Headlights: Legislation to require headlights on motor vehicles to emit only a white light or light of a yellow or amber tint was not given serious committee consideration before the legislature adjourned for the year. The bill exempted white HID lamps and other lamps installed as original equipment on new vehicles. SEMA is working with the bill sponsor to amend the bill to conform to the federal lighting standard, to which all headlamps—both original and aftermarket—are required to comply.
Texas Ethanol: Legislation to prohibit the sale of motor fuel with an ethanol mixture was introduced in the House and will be considered by the Agriculture and Livestock Committee. The measure recognizes that ethanol fuels cause problems with fuel pumps and fuel gauges as well as other engine performance issues, especially over a period of time when the vehicle is
Vermont Titles: Legislation to ease the burden on car hobbyists by requiring the Commissioner of Motor Vehicles, upon the owner’s request, to issue titles for vehicles not currently required to be titled under Vermont law was amended and approved by the Vermont House. The bill will be sent back to the Senate for concurrence with the amendments. Under the amended legislation, these titles would be available only for vehicles 25 years old and older. Vehicles 15 years old and older would continue not to require titles. SEMA is supporting the measure’s intent to expand the out-of-state market for older Vermont motor vehicles and enhance their value
Washington Single Plate: Legislation to allow the issuance, at the option of the vehicle owner, of only a single, rear-mounted license plate died when the legislature adjourned for the year. The bill had not been given committee consideration. The bill sought to protect the aesthetic contours of vehicles and relieve vehicle owners of the burden and expense of having to create mounting holes on some original bumpers. The measure also would have saved money, conserved resources and brought Washington in line with other states that are moving to a single-plate requirement.
Canada (Nova Scotia) Automotive Heritage Month:
Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil has again issued a proclamation designating July 2015 as Automotive Heritage Mont” in the province. Nova Scotia joins several states, provinces and cities that have officially recognized this celebration of collector cars.
Patent Trolls: Congress is considering two SEMA-supported bills to combat “patent trolls.” The first bill would provide the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) with authority to enforce against abusive practices. The other legislation would more clearly define threshold requirements for pursuing patent-troll litigation and place the losing party at risk of paying the defendant’s legal fees if the lawsuit is proven unreasonable. Trolls defraud unsuspecting businesses by falsely asserting patent rights. They frequently purchase patents for goods and services they have no plans of producing and then send “demand” letters to companies seeking royalties and threatening patent-infringement lawsuits. The trolls may also claim patent rights to common technologies or business practices, whereby companies settle the claim rather than risk court action, providing funds to encourage more trolling. While at least 20 states have laws to protect businesses and individuals against entities engaging in this deceptive practice, there is no federal standard at present. The House Energy and Commerce Committee passed the FTC-related bill and Congress is expected to soon consider the other legislation to help
Tire Identification Numbers: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) made two changes to the rule governing the tire identification number (TIN) that appears on all new and retreaded motor vehicle tires sold in the United States. The TIN helps consumers and industry identify tires when they are subject to recall. The first change expands the code from two to three symbols, since NHTSA is running out of two-symbol codes for identifying specific tire plants. The second change standardizes the length of the TIN to eliminate confusion that may arise from the current variable lengths. The new length is 13 symbols for new tires and seven symbols for retreaded tires.
Canada (British Columbia) Collector Car Appreciation Day: The province of British Columbia has again issued a proclamation designating July 11, 2015, as Collector Car Appreciation Day in the province. The province also proclaimed the month of July 2015 to be Collector Car Appreciation Month. Earlier this year, SEMA announced these dates to mark the sixth commemoration in what has become an annual event to raise awareness of the vital role automotive restoration and collection plays in American society.
Degreasers/Paint Strippers: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is convening two small-business advocacy review panels to consider ways to restrict the use of three chemicals found in degreasing and paint-stripping operations: N-Methylpyrrolidone (NMP), trichloroethylene (TCE) and methylene chloride, which is also known as dichloromethane (DCM). The review panels are required under the Regulatory Flexibility Act when rulemakings may have a significant economic impact on a number of small businesses. The EPA has concluded that the chemicals may pose potential cancer or other health risks. The panels will seek to identify ways in which exposure to the chemicals can be reduced.
Endangered Species Act: The U.S. House Armed Services Committee passed the National Defense Authorization Act, which includes language that prohibits for 10 years the Interior Department from making a decision on whether to list the greater sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The issue is of critical importance to motorized recreation enthusiasts, since an ESA listing could threaten closure of roads and trails within the bird’s 165-million-acre habitat spanning 11 western states. The states are working with local communities, private landowners and industry to develop comprehensive voluntary efforts that would provide necessary protections.
Utah Public Lands Initiative: SEMA is working with off-road groups, local communities, environmentalists, energy interests and a variety of other groups on the “Utah Public Lands Initiative,” which covers the state’s eastern counties (San Juan, Daggett, Uintah, Carbon, Duchesne, Emery, Grand and Summit). Under the SEMA-supported initiative, these eight counties are in the process of putting forward individual plans to finalize federal land designations that include permanent protections for motorized recreation. U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT), chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) have led the effort to bring the various interests together and will introduce legislation finalizing the agreements. In total, more than 20 million acres of land will be impacted by the initiative.