LEGISLATIVE AND TECHNICAL AFFAIRS
By Stuart Gosswein
Restore Bonneville Program: Utah lawmakers have appropriated $5 million toward a program to restore the Bonneville Salt Flats, contingent upon securing federal funds. The money and funds will be used to create a 10-year, $50-million program to dramatically increase the amount of salt pumped onto Bonneville. The bulk of the monies will come from the federal government, with contributions as well from the motorsports community. Beginning in the ’60s, the salt crust diminished due to historic and current potash mining activities under existing leases from the Bureau of Land Management. The mine owner has been pumping salt since 1997, but infrastructure renovation and upgrades would increase the volume. As a result, the racing venue should gradually expand from its current 8-mi. length, with a goal of reaching the original 13-mi. length.
Tariffs—China: The U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) is not going to permit companies to request an exclusion from the 10% tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese products. The U.S. Congress had directed that an exclusion process be established, just as had been done for the $50 billion worth of Chinese goods subject to 25% tariffs. However, USTR Ambassador Robert Lighthizer intends to establish an exclusion process only if the 10% tariffs increase to 25%. It is his contention that the recent devaluation of the Chinese yuan means that the 10% tariff is only having a 2% or 3% impact. Under the exclusion process, the USTR will consider granting an exemption if a company can demonstrate that the product is available only from China, that the tariff will cause severe economic harm, and that the good is strategically important.
EPA Ban on Methylene Chloride: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a rule banning methylene chloride used in paint removers for consumer use. The prohibition begins in August 2019. Methylene chloride is also called dichloromethane or DCM and is used for paint and coating removal, metal cleaning and degreasing, plastic processing and adhesive manufacturing. Consumers exposed to the chemical may risk dizziness or potentially fatal nervous system disorders. There are a variety of other alternative chemicals available to take the place of methylene chloride. While the chemical has not been banned for commercial uses, the EPA has requested feedback on limiting use to workers who are trained and certified.
Overtime Pay: The U.S. Department of Labor is proposing to raise the cap from $23,660 to $35,308 for management, administrative and professional employees who are exempt from receiving overtime pay when they work more than 40 hours a week. The pay threshold is frequently called the Fair Labor Standards Act’s “white-collar” exemption. The $23,660 threshold was last set in 2004. In 2016, the Obama Administration raised the cap to $47,476 per year, but it was struck down by a federal court. The Obama Administration rule included a periodic cost-of-living adjustment, but the current proposed rule would keep the cap at $35,308 until there is a future rulemaking. It is estimated that an additional 1.3 million Americans who work more than 40 hours a week would become eligible for overtime pay under the proposed rule.
California—Exhaust Noise: Legislation (A.B. 390) in California to repeal the section of a 2018 law (A.B. 1824) that amended how state law-enforcement officials issue citations for exhaust noise violations was referred to the Assembly Transportation Committee and received a hearing in March. In California, exhaust systems installed on motor vehicles with a manufacturer’s gross vehicle weight rating of less than 6,000 lbs., other than motorcycles, may not exceed a sound level of 95 dB when tested under Society of Automotive Engineers test procedure J1492 (formerly J1169). A.B. 390 would reinstate the provision for issuing “fix it” tickets, giving motorists the ability to demonstrate compliance to the 95-dB standard.
California—Smog Exemption: Legislation introduced in the California Assembly to exempt motor vehicles prior to the ’83 model year from the state’s emissions-inspection requirement was removed from consideration by its author prior to being heard by the Assembly Transportation Committee in March. Current law requires the biennial testing of all ’76-and-newer model-year vehicles.
Georgia—Lighting: Legislation was introduced in the Georgia House of Representatives to conditionally allow for the installation and operation of bar-shaped auxiliary lighting on a motor vehicle when driven on public roads. Current law allows the use of such auxiliary lighting only for off-road purposes. The bill currently awaits consideration in the House Motor Vehicles Committee.
Hawaii—Military Vehicles: Legislation in Hawaii to allow for the titling and registration of former military vehicles passed the House of Representatives and now awaits consideration in the Senate Transportation Committee. Currently, former military vehicles are not allowed to be registered or titled for on-road use in the state.
Illinois—License Plates: Legislation was introduced in the Illinois House of Representatives to require the issuance of only a single, rear-mounted license plate for all motor vehicles. A similar measure failed to pass during the 2018 legislative session. Under current law, vehicles must display both front and rear license plates. The bill now awaits consideration by the House Special Issues Subcommittee.
Maine—Ethanol: Legislation was introduced in Maine to prohibit the sale of motor fuel with greater than 10% ethanol. The legislation currently awaits consideration in the Joint Committee on Environment and Natural Resources.
Ohio—Replica Vehicles: A version of SEMA-model legislation to ease the process by which replica cars are titled and registered was introduced in the Ohio House of Representatives. The bill defines replica car as a motor vehicle that is constructed, assembled or modified as to replicate the make, model and model year of a motor vehicle that is at least 25 years old. Currently, there is no specific registration and titling class for replicas. The bill is now awaiting consideration in the House Transportation and Public Safety Committee.
Maine—Antique Vehicles: Legislation was introduced in the Maine State Legislature to allow vehicles at least 15 model years old to be exempt from needing a certificate of title or certificate of salvage to register the vehicle. Under current law, only vehicles model-year ’95 or older are exempt from titling requirements. The legislation currently awaits consideration in the Joint Committee
Massachusetts—Lighting: Legislation was introduced in the Massachusetts Senate to allow blue-dot taillights on street rods and custom vehicles. Under current law, all vehicles are prohibited from displaying blue-colored taillights. The bill awaits consideration in the Joint Committee on Transportation.
Minnesota—Military Vehicles: Legislation in Minnesota to aid the registration of certain decommissioned military vehicles as standard motor vehicles passed the Veterans and Military Affairs Finance and Policy Division and now awaits consideration on the Senate floor. A collector military vehicle is currently defined as a vehicle at least 20 years old, originally manufactured for the U.S. Armed Forces, and operated solely as a collector’s vehicle.
Nebraska—Military Vehicles: Legislation in Nebraska to allow for the titling and registration of former military vehicles passed the legislature and is awaiting signature or veto from Governor Pete Ricketts. Currently, former military vehicles are not allowed to be registered or titled for on-road use in the state.
New Mexico—License Plates: Legislation to require registration plates on the front and back of all motor vehicles died as the legislature adjourned. Under current law, all motor vehicles in the state are issued only a single plate.
Tennessee—Military Vehicles: Legislation was introduced in the Tennessee House of Representatives to exempt historic military vehicles from the requirement to display license plates. The bill currently awaits consideration in the House Transportation Committee.
Texas—License Plates: Legislation was introduced in the Texas Senate to require the issuance of only a single, rear-mounted license plate for all passenger cars and light trucks. Under existing law, vehicles must display two license plates. The bill currently awaits consideration in the Senate Transportation Committee.
West Virginia—Legislature Adjourns: Several bills introduced in West Virginia in 2019 failed to pass both houses of the legislature prior to the adjournment of the session:
- Military Vehicles: Legislation exempting antique military vehicles from the requirement to display license plates passed the House but failed to be considered in the Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. The bill would have created an alternative registration insignia that does not interfere with the traditional military markings on the vehicle. A separate bill allowing for the registration of military surplus vehicles failed to receive a vote in the House Veterans’ Affairs and Homeland Security Committee. This bill was based on SEMA-model legislation.
- Motorsports Complexes: Legislation incentivizing the construction of motorsports complexes passed the Senate but failed to receive consideration in the House Finance Committee.
- License Plates: Legislation allowing for the transfer of special license plates between collector vehicles if owned by the same individual was approved by the House Roads and Transportation Committee; however, the bill did not receive a hearing in the House Finance Committee.
- Property Taxes: A bill exempting vehicles 25 years old and older from personal property taxes passed the Senate but failed to receive a vote in the House Technology and Infrastructure Committee.