LEGISLATIVE AND TECHNICAL AFFAIRS
Law and Order
California Vehicle Retirement Program: The Senate Environmental Quality Committee did not approve legislation to expand the state’s program for the retirement and replacement of older passenger vehicles and light- and medium-duty trucks. The bill had previously been approved by the Senate Transportation Committee and full Assembly. 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 have required the agencies to set specific and measurable goals for the program’s expansion. While the bill was granted “reconsideration” by the committee, it is unlikely to re-emerge and is essentially dead for the year.
California License Plates: A bill to expand the authorization of year-of-manufacture license plates to include owners of ’80 or older model-year vehicles was approved by the Assembly Appropriations Committee and now moves to the floor of the Assembly for a vote by all members. The bill has already been 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.
Connecticut Titles: Legislation was signed into law by Governor Dannel Malloy to require the state, upon the owner’s request, to issue titles for older vehicles not currently required to be titled under Connecticut law. These vehicles include those more than 20 model years old. The new law expands the out-of-state market for older Connecticut motor vehicles and enhances their value to collectors.
New Jersey Street Rods: Sponsors of legislation to create a vehicle registration classification for street rods and replica custom vehicles are working with SEMA to pursue a committee hearing on the measure. The bill has languished in committee without substantial action. The SEMA-model legislation defines a street rod as an altered vehicle manufactured before 1948 and a custom as an altered vehicle at least 25 years old and manufactured after 1948. The bill allows kit cars and replica vehicles to be assigned certificates of title bearing the same model-year designation that the body of the vehicle most closely resembles.
Northeast Mileage Tax: Connecticut, New Hampshire, Vermont, Pennsylvania and Delaware have joined together to apply for $2.1 million in federal money to study a mileage-based user fee. The program, if implemented, would tax drivers based on the number of highway miles they drive. Advocates of the fee claim that new revenue is needed because gasoline taxes have remained relatively flat while cars become more fuel-efficient. One of the goals of the study and pilot program would be to figure out the best way to track how many miles motorists are driving. Options include an aftermarket mileage counter with GPS capabilities, a smartphone app or electronics installed directly into a vehicle. The proposal of a mileage-based fee program has come under intense scrutiny by legislatures all over the country. Implementation of the fee would require legislative approval.
EPA and Racing Parts: 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 110 sponsors in the House and 23 in the Senate. SEMA has engaged its member companies as well as other impacted trade associations and racing enthusiasts to oppose the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) action and support the legislation.
CAFE Targets: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), EPA and California Air Resources Board issued a joint technical report that will be used to determine the feasibility of meeting a fleet-wide fuel average of 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025. The report concludes that the average may actually be in the 50- to 52.6-mpg range. NHTSA’s corporate average fuel economy (CAFE) standards are linked to the EPA’s greenhouse gas standards, since the amount of fossil fuel burned directly corresponds to carbon emissions. CAFE standards are based on the size and class of vehicles, allowing SUVs to have standards that are different from passenger cars. NHTSA will be conducting a review of the CAFE program next year, with the possibility for adjusting the CAFE targets for the 2021–2015 time period. NHTSA’s current fleet target of 54.5 mpg assumed that gas prices would be higher and, in turn, that more consumers would be buying smaller, fuel-efficient cars.
Utah Public Lands Initiative: Leaders within the Utah Congressional delegation introduced a Public Lands Initiative (PLI) bill to finalize land-use designations covering more than 18 million acres of land in seven eastern and southern Utah counties. Spearheaded by Reps. Rob Bishop (R-UT) and Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), the proposal is the product of three years of work and more than 1,200 meetings with stakeholder groups, including local communities, off-road groups and environmentalists as well as logging, grazing and energy interests. Of particular interest to the off-road community, the PLI creates motorized recreation zones in San Juan and Grand Counties encompassing more than 375,000 acres, along with a 93-mile red-rock OHV trail connecting towns in Emery, Grand and San Juan Counties. SEMA supports the PLI’s collaborative approach to making final designations in order to provide certainty regarding how land is managed, including wilderness, conservation and recreation areas.
Reopening Clear Creek: The U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill that requires the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to reopen the 75,000-acre Clear Creek National Recreation Area (NRA) in California’s San Benito and Fresno Counties for recreational use. The legislation would provide for OHV access to more than 240 miles of public trails. The bill now goes to the U.S. Senate for consideration. Clear Creek NRA was closed in 2008 due to concerns about exposure to asbestiform minerals that occur naturally in the area’s rock and soil. However, an independent asbestos risk-assessment study requested by the California Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Commission concluded that strategies could be effectively employed to allow OHV use while shielding the public from unacceptable exposure risks. The bill ensures that the Clear Creek NRA will be managed in way that permits responsible recreation while also providing for the safety of all of the area’s visitors.