LEGISLATIVE AND TECHNICAL AFFAIRS
By Steve McDonald
Law and Order
Hawaii Ethanol: Legislation to repeal the requirement that gasoline offered for sale in the state contain a percentage of ethanol was approved by the House and Senate and sent to the governor for his signature and enactment into law. The bill creates an effective date of December 31, 2015.
California “Made in U.S.A.”:
A bill to amend the California law governing “Made in U.S.A.” labeling to conform it to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) standard was approved by the full Assembly. Under current law, the standard in the state for designating products as “Made in U.S.A.” is more onerous than the standard established by the 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’s standard requires 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.” Separate Senate legislation provides an exception from the law for products made in the United States that contain a component obtained from outside the United States if that component does not constitute more than 5% of the final product. The bill also provides an exception for products with a foreign-sourced component that does not constitute more than 10% of the final product if the manufacturer can show that the component could not be produced in or sourced from the United States.
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 approved by the Assembly Business and Professions Committee and Appropriations Committee and will next be considered on the Assembly floor in a vote by all members. 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.
SEMA is supporting legislation to require new-car dealers to provide purchasers with a written statement declaring that it is illegal for manufacturers or dealers to void a warranty or deny coverage because aftermarket or recycled parts were installed or because someone other than the dealer performed service. The bill was approved by the Senate and has been sent to the House for consideration. The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act regulates warranties for the protection of consumers. Under the law, a vehicle manufacturer may not condition a written or implied warranty on consumers using parts or services that are identified by brand, trade or corporate name. The use of an aftermarket part alone is not cause for denying the warranty.
Florida Miles-Traveled Tax:
House and Senate versions of legislation to establish a pilot program to study the feasibility of implementing a system that charges drivers based on vehicle miles traveled died when the legislature adjourned for the year. In addition to creating privacy concerns, the bills sought 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. The Senate bill would have allowed the Center for Urban Transportation to spend up to $400,000 for the study and pilot program design and provided for the implementation of the pilot program in 2017.
Hawaii Exhaust Systems:
A bill that sought to prohibit the use, sale or installation of an exhaust system “that has been changed or modified from the factory design so as to increase the volume or audibility of the explosions within the vehicle’s motor” died when the Legislature adjourned. This SEMA-opposed legislation would have required that safety inspection stations perform a test to ensure that a vehicle conforms to the law. Fines for noncompliance would have ranged from $100 to $500 for each offense. The bill is eligible for consideration in 2016.
Maryland Single Plate:
Compromise legislation to allow the issuance of only a single license plate to historic vehicles and street rods was signed into law by Governor Larry Hogan. Under the new law, 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.
Minnesota Miles-Traveled Tax:
Legislation to mandate payment of a “recoupment” surcharge of up to $95 died when the legislature adjourned for the year. The surcharge would have been calculated to levy the highest tax on owners of the most fuel-efficient vehicles. Separate legislation to require the Department of Transportation to take steps to implement a vehicle-mileage user fee to tax drivers on actual miles driven also died. Both bills are eligible for consideration in 2016.
Missouri Miles-Traveled Tax:
An effort to require the Department of Revenue 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 died when the legislature adjourned for the year. Under the bill, this fee would have been charged in addition to all other registration fees and the gas tax. In addition to creating privacy concerns, the bill sought to penalize national efforts to create a more fuel-efficient vehicle fleet by taxing drivers based on vehicle mileage.
Missouri Single Plates:
Legislation to require the issuance of only a single license plate died when the legislature adjourned for the year. Separate legislation to allow motor-vehicle owners to petition the state for approval to fasten a license plate on only the rear of the vehicle also died. Both bills would have saved money, conserved resources and brought Missouri in line with other states that have moved to a single-plate requirement. Further, the bills would have helped protect the aesthetic contours of collector cars and relieved vehicle owners of the burden of having to create mounting holes on fabricated and some original
New Hampshire Antique Trucks:
A SEMA-supported bill to include trucks more than 25 years old in the definition of eligible “antique motor vehicles” was signed into law by Governor Maggie Hassan. The measure provides the option for older trucks to take advantage of the many accommodations available to antique cars. Under New Hampshire law, antique motor vehicles pay a minimal registration fee. In addition, antiques are inspected only every two years, can use year-of-manufacture license plates and are exempted from certain equipment requirements. Antique motor vehicles may be used in exhibitions, club activities, parades and other functions of public interest.
New Jersey Emissions:
Legislation to require the motor vehicle commission to issue exempt certificates for motor vehicles not required to be inspected was approved by the Senate Transportation Committee. The bill will next be considered by the Budget and Appropriations Committee. Under current law, motorcycles, registered historic motor vehicles, motor vehicles designated as collector vehicles and certain diesel-powered passenger motor vehicles built before the ’97 model year are exempt from emissions inspections and equipment inspections. As exempt motor vehicles are not subject to inspection, no certificates of approval are issued for them to display. Operators of these exempt vehicles are often stopped by law enforcement because there is no certificate of approval affixed to their windshields. As a result, the owners of these vehicles must carry all the documentation needed to prove their exempt status.
Ohio Single Plate:
A bill to require that motor vehicles display only a single license plate on the rear of the vehicle is being considered by the House Transportation Committee. If enacted into law, the bill would save the state $1.43 million and bring Ohio in line with other states that have moved to a single-plate requirement, including the bordering states of Indiana, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Kentucky and West Virginia.
Legislation to ease the burden on 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 approved by the Legislature and sent to the governor for his signature and enactment into law. Under the bill, these titles would be available for only 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
Vermont Exhaust Systems:
A bill to ban motor-vehicle exhaust systems that increase noise levels died when the legislature adjourned for the year. The legislation is eligible for consideration in 2016. Under the measure, violators would not have passed the state’s required inspection and would have been subject to fines of up to $350. The bill also did not provide an opportunity for vehicle hobbyists to install and use aftermarket exhaust systems that meet an objective decibel limit under a fair and predictable test.
Recreational Off-Highway Vehicles (ROVs): SEMA-supported legislation directing the National Academy of Sciences to conduct a study on ROV requirements proposed by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) was passed by the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee and awaits a Senate floor vote. A U.S. House subcommittee has held a hearing on a companion bill to postpone further action on the CPSC’s proposed rule pending the study. ROVs generally accommodate a side-by-side driver/passenger in a compartment equipped with rollbars and can attain speeds greater than 30 mph. SEMA has joined with other companies and organizations to support an alternative industry ROV standard that would not stifle future design innovations and potentially limit use, as is feared under the CPSC rule. The industry standard recognizes that there are a wide variety of uses and terrains for which ROVs are constructed, from utility to recreation.
Research & Development (R&D) Tax Credit:
The U.S. House of Representatives passed SEMA-supported legislation to renew the R&D tax credit that expired at the end of 2014. The bill would increase the alternative simplified credit from 14% to 20%, make the credit permanent and provide small businesses with a credit against the alternative minimum tax. While supporting the bill’s intent, the White House issued a veto threat based on the premise that the bill would increase the federal deficit. Supporters maintain that the tax credit would actually increase tax revenues over time as companies pay taxes on profits resulting from their investments. A similar bill has been introduced in the Senate but is on hold as senators attempt to focus on comprehensive tax reform.
Endangered Species Act (ESA) Reform:
The U.S. Senate Environment Committee held a hearing on several bills to reform the ESA. The 40-year-old law has produced few tangible results beyond road and trail closures, restrictive land-use designations and lawsuits. Millions of acres of land have been set aside to protect threatened and endangered animals and plants, but more money has been spent on lawyers and court expenses than on wildlife management. The reform legislation would require the U.S. Department of Interior to consider the economic impact of critical habitat designations, publish scientific and commercial data that is the basis for ESA designations and consider data provided by state, local and tribal governments.
OSHA Safety Poster:
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) updated its poster entitled “Job Safety and Health—It’s The Law!” The poster reminds workers of their rights and employers of their responsibilities. The revised version notes that employers are now required to report 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. Employers must display the poster (or a state version where applicable) in a conspicuous place. Previous versions of the poster do not need to be replaced. The free poster is available at www.osha.gov.
Hazardous Chemical Labeling:
OHSA recently updated its hazardous chemical labeling requirements by adopting the international Globally Harmonized System (GHS). As of June 2015, chemical manufacturers and importers are required to use labels that have pictograms, a signal word, hazard and precautionary statements, the product identifier and supplier identification. As of December 2015, distributors cannot ship improperly labeled containers. Employers whose workers handle hazardous chemicals are required to update their hazard communications program as necessary and provide additional employee training. More information is available at www.osha.gov.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Motorcycle Helmets:
NHTSA issued a proposed rule to define “motorcycle helmets” and thereby regulate novelty helmets (commonly referred to as “skullcaps” and “beanies”) that are sold and worn for highway use. The rule would also add a set of dimensional and compression requirements to the existing performance requirements for motorcycle helmets under Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 218.