LEGISLATIVE AND TECHNICAL AFFAIRS
Law and Order
Colorado—Emissions Inspection: A bill has been introduced to extend the emissions inspection cycle from two years to four years for ’82-and-newer model-year vehicles. It has been referred to the Senate Transportation Committee.
Hawaii—Military Vehicles: A bill to allow registration of former military vehicles as special-interest vehicles was approved by the Senate and referred to the House Transportation Committee.
Idaho—Military Vehicles: The Idaho House and Senate approved a bill allowing a vehicle built for the United States Armed Forces to be registered and operated on public highways in Idaho, even if the vehicle does not meet federal motor vehicle safety standards. The bill has been sent to the Governor to be signed into law.
Iowa—Window Tinting: A bill has been passed by the Senate to allow for window tinting that meets a minimum standard of 35% light transmittance. The House Transportation Committee is now considering the bill.
Michigan—Towing Equipment: The Senate Transportation Committee has passed a bill to allow for the attachment of a tow ball, a bicycle rack, a removable hitch or any other device designed to carry an object on the rear of a vehicle, even if it obstructs the rear license plate. The bill has been sent to the Senate Committee of the Whole.
Minnesota—ORV Recreation: Legislation has been introduced in both the Minnesota House and Senate to help create and protect well-managed off-road vehicle (ORV) trails. The legislation would direct the Commissioner of Natural Resources to establish a master ORV plan that identifies ways to develop a comprehensive trail system to serve regional and tourist destinations and to better foster economic benefits for local communities.
Missouri—Miles Traveled: The House Transportation Committee is considering a bill that would require the Department of Revenue to 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.
New Jersey—Historic Vehicles: The Assembly Transportation Committee is considering a bill that would allow historic motor vehicles to be used for occasional travel or pleasure driving (but not more than one day a week). Use is currently restricted to exhibition or educational purposes.
Utah—ORVs: A bill to more closely align ORV registration fees with the areas of use has been passed by the House and Senate. Collected funds are used for ORV trail expansion, maintenance and infrastructure. The bill has been sent to the Governor for approval.
Utah—Window Tinting: A bill allowing window tinting that meets the minimum standard of 25% light transmittance died when the Utah legislature adjourned. The current standard is 43%. The Senate Business and Labor Committee approved the bill before it died.
Virginia—Military Vehicles: The Virginia Senate approved a bill that would allow qualifying military vehicles to be registered and operated on public roadways. The bill originally required the vehicles to be registered as “antiques,” but that stipulation was dropped during committee consideration. Having already passed the House, the bill was sent to the Governor for approval.
West Virginia—End of Legislative Session: Several bills died when the legislature adjourned for the session. That included legislation to empower three or more contiguous counties to form regional recreation authorities to establish new recreational trail systems. Several license-plate bills also died, including bills recognizing antique and military vehicles and a bill to provide fullsize off-road vehicles access to roads used by all-terrain vehicles.
Steel/Aluminum Tariffs: President Trump directed the United States to collect a 25% tariff on all covered steel imports and a 10% tariff on all covered aluminum imports starting on March 23, 2018. The tariffs apply to processed raw materials (steel/aluminum plate, sheets, bars, etc.) but not finished products (e.g., wheels, exhausts, etc.). U.S.-based companies seeking a tariff exclusion must demonstrate that the foreign-produced material is not produced in the United States in reasonably available quantity or satisfactory quality. If granted, the exclusion will last one year.
Imports from Canada and Mexico are temporarily exempted from the tariffs but are tied to a successful renegotiation of the NAFTA accord. Many other countries are also seeking tariff exclusions based on significant merit (U.S. allies with existing fair-trade practices or lack of material availability). The tariffs are the result of a U.S. Department of Commerce study that raised concern about a potential threat to U.S. national security due to a dependence on foreign sources for those critical materials. The study cited excess global production, resulting in reduced prices and closure of many U.S. factories.
Corn Ethanol: SEMA-supported legislation has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate to cap the amount of ethanol that is required to be blended into the U.S. fuel supply at 9.7%. The bills phase out the federal government’s ethanol mandates under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) by reducing the amount of corn ethanol blended into gasoline by 2 billion gal. a year until the requirement is eliminated in 2030. While the RFS was intended to reduce the nation’s dependency on foreign oil, the 2007 law has translated into ever-increasing corn production so that the ethanol byproduct can be blended into gasoline. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has turned to sales of E15 (15% ethanol blended into gasoline) to achieve the law’s artificial mandate. 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.
Quiet Cars: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has extended the phase-in period by one year, to Sept. 2020, for installing sound equipment on new hybrid and electric light-duty vehicles to alert pedestrians to their presence. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 141 sets minimum sound levels intended to help both blind and sighted pedestrians more easily detect the vehicles. NHTSA will also consider giving the driver the option of selecting from up to five different sounds to be emitted.
Glen Canyon—ORVs: The U.S. National Park Service (NPS) has issued a draft ORV Management Plan for the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. The recreation area includes more than 1.25 million acres surrounding Lake Powell in Arizona and Utah. The draft plan includes five alternatives for managing off-highway vehicles both on and off the road. They range from no action (continuing the existing ORV management policies) to restricted access (limiting motorized vehicle use to existing part roads). The NPS has recommended Alternative E, permitting ORV use on park roads, designated off-road routes and along certain shoreline areas but prohibiting such use in areas where natural or cultural resources may be at risk.
Small-Businesses IP Protection: The Small Business Committees for both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives passed legislation directing leadership at the Small Business Administration (SBA), U.S. Department of Commerce and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to jointly develop a small-business intellectual property (IP) protection training program. The goal would be to urge small businesses to devote attention to domestic and international IP protection as part of their business models. The training program would be an online resource and available at physical locations, including at SBA Small Business Development Centers and the USPTO headquarters and regional offices.
Oceano Dunes—ORV Access: The number of ORV riding areas at Oceano Dunes in California will be reduced under a settlement agreement reached between the California State Parks Department and the San Luis Obispo County Air Pollution Control District. The agreement is intended to decrease fine particulate matter (PM10) emissions by about 30% by 2023. Under the agreement, about 100 acres of riding area would be immediately fenced off, including some within the popular La Grande Tract. The program includes reintroduction of native vegetation within fenced-off areas, deployment of wind fences, and installment of grooved concrete to help remove sand from vehicles as they exit the park.