LEGISLATIVE AND TECHNICAL AFFAIRS
Law and Order
Alabama Titles: Legislation was signed into law by Governor Robert J. Bentley to exempt motor vehicles more than 35 years old from the requirement that they have certificates of title. Previously, only vehicles of model-year ’74 and older were exempted. Trailers 20 model years old and older are also to be exempted under the new law. Previously, only trailers of the ’89 model year and earlier were exempted. The law takes effect on January 1, 2017.
Arizona Gas Tax/Road-Usage Tax: A bill to raise gas taxes and require a study of a road-usage tax died when the legislature adjourned for the year. The measure received no committee consideration. The legislation would have required a study of a road-usage tax and a potential pilot program. 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.
California License Plates: An effort to expand the authorization of year-of-manufacture license plates to include owners of ’80-or-older model-year vehicles was approved by the California Senate. Current law authorizes only owners of vehicles that are of a ’69 or older model year or owners of a commercial vehicle or pickup that is a ’72 or older to utilize California year-of-manufacture license plates. These plates must be legible and serviceable. The bill will now be considered in the Assembly.
California Emissions: Amended legislation to exempt motor vehicles prior to the ’81 model year from an emissions-inspection requirement was unanimously approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee. Having already been approved by the Transportation Committee, the bill will now be sent to the full Senate for a vote by all members. Under the amended bill, vehicles manufactured after the ’75 model year but prior to the ’81 model year would be exempted if the owner submits proof that the vehicle is insured as a collector motor vehicle. This exemption would be a two-year trial that would need to be renewed by separate legislation in order to continue. Current law requires the lifetime testing of all ’76-and-newer model-year vehicles.
California Vehicle Retirement Program: Legislation to expand the state’s program for the retirement and replacement of older passenger vehicles and light- and medium-duty trucks was approved by the Assembly Appropriations Committee. Having already been approved by the Transportation Committee, the bill will now be considered in a vote by all assembly members. Current law provides for “an enhanced fleet modernization program” to be administered by the Bureau of Automotive Repair based on guidelines adopted by the Air Resources Board. Beginning in the 2017–2018 fiscal year, the bill would require the agencies to set specific and measurable goals for the program’s expansion.
California Transportation Fees: A bill was approved by the Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Development Committee to, among other things, raise the gas tax by $0.12 per gallon, increase the annual vehicle registration fee by $35, add a new $100 annual vehicle registration fee for zero-emissions motor vehicles, and impose a new $35 annual road-access charge on each vehicle. The additional funds raised by the bill would be used to address deferred maintenance on state highways and local streets and roads. The bill has now been referred to the Appropriations Committee.
Georgia Headlamps: Legislation to require that the headlamps of every motor vehicle must emit only “white light” died when the legislature adjourned for the year. All headlamps, both original and aftermarket, are required to comply with the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS). Under that standard, headlamps and replaceable blubs intended for those headlamps are already required to emit “white” light. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has based its definition of “white” on a standard issued by the Society of Automotive Engineers that defines white by blue, yellow, green, red and purple boundaries within a chromaticity diagram. SEMA worked with the legislature to encourage language in future legislation making specific reference to FMVSS 108 as the standard to which all headlamps must comply.
Connecticut Titles: Legislation to require the state, upon the owner’s request, to issue titles for older vehicles not currently required to be titled under Connecticut law was passed by the Legislature and sent to Governor Dannel Malloy for his signature and enactment into law. The vehicles would include those more than 20 model years old.
Maryland Historic Vehicles: A bill that makes minimal changes to Maryland’s historic vehicle requirements was signed into law by Governor Larry Hogan. As introduced, the bill appeared to subject historic vehicles of model-year ’86 and later to undergo periodic safety inspections. However, an amended version of the new law specifically excludes historic vehicles from the requirement that they receive an inspection certificate prior to titling and registration. The law does prohibit the use of historic vehicles for employment, transportation to employment or school and for commercial purposes. The bill also subjects historic vehicles of model-year ’86 and later to equipment repair orders. These repair orders would be issued for vehicle safety equipment that is in disrepair and would require a subsequent inspection to determine that the repair had been effected. The new law does not change the age requirement for historic vehicles, does not require that an historic vehicle be insured by a show- or antique-vehicle insurance policy and does not require that the owner have a “daily driver” vehicle registered in the state.
Michigan Forest Roads: Legislation to require that forest roads be open to motorized use by the public unless otherwise designated by the Department of Natural Resources was approved by the Michigan Senate Committee on Outdoor Recreation and Tourism. Having already been approved by the House, the bill will now move to the Senate floor for a vote by all members. Under the bill, before the department newly restricts a road or trail used to access public land, it must provide local governments in which the land is located with written notice that includes the reason for the restriction.
Missouri Historic Trailers: After having been approved by the House, legislation to allow a camping or fifth-wheel trailer more than 25 years old to be permanently registered for a $25 fee was not considered in a vote by the full Senate. The bill also allowed those possessing a year-of-manufacture license plate more than 25 years old to use the plate as an historic trailer plate if the configuration of letters and numbers has not been issued to someone else.
Missouri Taxes: A measure to exempt motor vehicles that are at least 10 years old from state and local sales taxes on the titling of motor vehicles was not considered before the legislature adjourned. The bill recognized that many state citizens who require inexpensive transportation rely on the availability and affordability of older cars. The bill did not apply to motor vehicles with a sales price of more than $15,000.
New Hampshire Emissions: A bill was signed into law by Governor Maggie Hassan to exempt rare or historically significant vehicles from emissions-control requirements. Under previous law, only vehicles 20 or more years old were exempt. The new law becomes effective January 1, 2017.
New Hampshire Off-Highway Vehicles: Legislation was approved by the Senate to re-establish the authority of the Bureau of Trails to permit larger off-highway recreational vehicles at Jericho Mountain State Park. Having already been approved by the House, the bill now moves to Governor Maggie Hassan for her signature and enactment into law.
New Hampshire Road User Fee: Legislation to establish a road-usage fee for motor vehicles registered to travel on state roads died when the legislature failed to act. Under the bill, the fee would have been based on the equivalent miles per gallon of the vehicle and collected at the time of annual registration of the vehicle. The measure would have imposed its harshest penalties on those vehicles that have the highest miles-per-gallon rating, with a maximum tax of $149.85.
New Jersey Inspections: Legislation was approved by the Senate Transportation Committee to require the motor vehicle commission to issue exempt certificates for motor vehicles not required to be inspected. 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. The Budget and Appropriations Committee will next consider the bill.
Tennessee Emissions: A bill to extend the emissions-inspection exemption for new cars was signed into law by Governor Bill Haslam. Under the new law, all vehicles three years old and newer would be excused, regardless of mileage. Previous law exempted only new motor vehicles being registered for the first time or one year from initial registration.
Vermont Fees: Legislation to increase annual motor vehicle fees and taxes has been approved by the Vermont Legislature and sent to the governor for his signature and enactment into law. Among the fee increases are those for registration, administration, plates and titles. Even seldom-driven exhibition vehicles would see an increase to the annual registration fee.
Vermont Exhaust Systems: A bill to ban motor-vehicle exhaust systems that increase noise levels died when the legislature adjourned for the year. The bill, introduced in 2015, was eligible for consideration in 2016 but was not considered in committee. 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.
RPM Act: SEMA is working to advance the Recognizing the Protection of Motorsports (RPM) Act, which clarifies that the Clean Air Act allows for the modification of motor vehicles for race use only and that making, selling and installing race products for this purpose is not unlawful tampering. The RPM Act has garnered strong support in Congress, including 98 sponsors in the House and 15 in the Senate. SEMA has engaged its member companies, other impacted trade associations, and racing enthusiasts to oppose the EPA action and support the legislation.
Toxic Chemicals: The U.S. Congress reached agreement on a bipartisan plan to update the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), legislation to provide the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with broad new duties and powers to regulate hazardous chemicals. Lawmakers and industry had sought to overhaul the 1976 law that governs thousands of chemicals found in a diverse range of products, from paint thinners to clothing. The legislation seeks to provide the industry with a single federal regulatory system for testing and regulating potentially dangerous chemicals rather than the current patchwork of state rules. Under current law, the EPA must prove that a chemical poses a potential risk before it can demand health and safety data or require testing. Since the substance can automatically enter the marketplace after 90 days, a number of states have enacted their own restrictions. Under the new approach, the EPA would have the authority to direct companies to test products in exchange for a uniform rule that supersedes state rules. The legislation has been approved by the House and is expected to be approved by the Senate and signed into law by the president.
Overtime Pay: The U.S. Department of Labor raised the minimum salary threshold required to qualify for the Fair Labor Standards Act’s “white-collar” exemption to $47,476 per year, effective December 1, 2016. Under the current rule, management, administrative and professional employees who currently earn salaries of more than $23,660 a year are exempt from receiving overtime pay when they work more than 40 hours a week. The rule will impact an estimated 4.2 million salaried workers.
Workplace Injuries: The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires most companies with 10 or more employees to keep a record of worker injuries and illnesses. The employer has typically kept the information for private reference, but OSHA will now require most large companies to submit the data electronically to OSHA for posting on the agency’s website. The new rule applies to establishments with 250 or more employees in industries that are already required to keep work-related injury and illness records. It also applies to auto parts manufacturers, distributors and retailers with 20 to 249 workers. OSHA estimates that the rule will impact 476,000 businesses. The rule becomes effective August 16, 2016, and will be phased in over two years.
Ethanol: A bill has been introduced in the U.S. Congress that will cap the yearly amount of ethanol to be blended into transportation fuel at 9.7%. The Food and Fuel Consumer Protection Act of 2016 would replace ever-increasing ethanol mandates under the current Renewable Fuel Standard. The Environmental Protection Agency is relying on expanded sales of E15 (gas that contains 15% ethanol) to meet the expanding Renewable Fuel Standard targets. Ethanol, especially in higher concentrations such as E15, can cause metal corrosion and dissolve certain plastics and rubbers in automobiles produced before 2001 that were not constructed with ethanol-resistant materials. SEMA has joined with more than 50 other organizations ranging from the auto and boat industries to the food, energy and environmental community to support passage of the legislation.