SEMA Federal Legislative Priorities: 2016

Replica Vehicle Law:  SEMA spent the past few years working with leaders in Congress to enact a new law permitting small volume automakers to eachsell up to 325 turn-key replica vehicles in the U.S. (5,000 worldwide per company) under a simplified regulatory system.  The legislation was part of the highway bill signed into law in December 2015.  Replica cars resemble production vehicles manufactured at least 25 years ago such as 1930s-era hot rods and 1960s-era Cobras.  Until now, the federal government’s regulatory system did not differentiate between a company producing millions of vehicles and a business producing a few custom cars.  As a result, a small “kit car” market emerged where a manufacturer sold car parts, frequently assembled, and the buyer installed the engine/transmission.  While states have often regulated kit cars built by hobbyists by the model year they resemble, the federal government viewed a manufacturer-completed replica car to be a current model year vehicle.  The new law now allows each manufacturer to sell up to 325 completed replicas in the U.S. subject to equipment regulations, the same as kit cars.  Hobbyists will still have the freedom to assemble their own vehicle if they prefer.  SEMA is now working with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Environment Protection Agency (EPA) as they draft regulations implementing the law.  The regulations are due by the end of 2016 and consumers should be able to begin purchasing replicas in 2017.   More information is available at www.sema.org/replica.

Collector Car Appreciation Day:  SEMA is working with U.S. Senators Richard Burr (R-NC) and Jon Tester (D-MT) to pass a U.S. Senate resolution designating July 8, 2016 as "Collector Car Appreciation Day."  It would mark the seventh consecutive Senate commemoration in what has become an annual event to raise awareness of the vital role automotive restoration and collection plays in American society.  Lawmakers most recently passed Senate Resolution 196 recognizing July 10, 2015 as "CCAD" day.  The resolution noted that “the collection and restoration of historic and classic cars is an important part of preserving the technological achievements and cultural heritage of the United States.”  With the support of SEMA and the SEMA Action Network (SAN), car clubs, enthusiast organizations, and affiliated businesses hosted more than 140 events to commemorate the day in 2015. Events ranged from car cruises to small-business open houses and product giveaways.  For more information: www.semasan.com/ccad

Comprehensive Tax Reform:  At the end of 2015, lawmakers enacted legislation making two SEMA-supported tax credits permanent rather than extending them a year at a time.  The research and development tax credit is now permanent along with the Section 179 deduction limits, whichallow smaller companies to write off their capital investments up to $500,000 a year with a $2 million cap on annual investments, indexed for inflation.  The bonus depreciation was renewed for investments in capital equipment made through 2019.  However, it will also be gradually reduced from 50% depreciation through the end of 2017 to 40% depreciation in 2018 and 30% depreciation in 2019.  While addressing tax credits, SEMA is now working with members of Congress to build support for comprehensive tax reform to lower overall corporate tax rates and encourage investment. 

E15 Ethanol:  Ethanol can cause metal corrosion and dissolve certain plastics and rubbers, especially in older cars that were not constructed with ethanol-resistant materials.  The EPA has approved the sale of gasoline containing 15% ethanol (E15) for use in 2001 and newer vehicles while making it illegal to fuel older cars and motorcycles based on evidence that it could cause damage to those vehicles and engines.  The issue is especially problematic since the EPA only requires a gas pump warning label, which may be inadequate to prevent misfueling by motorists unfamiliar with potential E15 harm.  The EPA approved E15 in part since it helps the agency meet “Renewable Fuel Standard” (RFS) mandates, a federal law that requires increasing amounts of biofuels be blended into gasoline each year, from 9 billion gallons in 2008 to 36 billion gallons by 2022.  SEMA is working with a diverse coalition of organizations opposed to the law’s artificial mandates, from the auto/boat industries to the petroleum, food and environmental communities. SEMA’s position on E15 is clear: Congress needs to reduce the RFS mandates and ban E15.  SEMA supports HR 704 to prohibit E15 sales and eliminate the RFS’s mandate that 15 billion gallons of corn-based ethanol be blended into the U.S. fuel supply each year. 

Bonneville Salt Flats:  The Bonneville Salt Flats (BSF) are a national treasure and unique resource of international significance central to the history of motorsports.  Hundreds of land speed records have been set there in a variety of automotive and motorcycle classes.  However, the BSF is endangered, having significantly decreased in size, strength and thickness over a number of decades as salt brine was channeled away from the area.  The last two years have been particularly challenging.  Most of the 2014 and 2015 racing events were cancelled due to rain and the salt surface’s poor condition.  To address this ongoing issue, SEMA helped organize the Save the Salt Coalition, companies and organizations with a vested interest in protecting the BSF.  The Coalition is working with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which manages the land, and Intrepid Potash-Wendover LLC, which operates an adjoining mining operation.  The Coalition, BLM and Intrepid are reviewing and implementing short- and long-term recommendations for restoring the BSF.  Toward that goal, SEMA is also working closely with lawmakers on Capitol Hill and in Utah and Nevada to pursue restoration.  For more information, visit www.savethesalt.org, a website maintained by SEMA.

Health Care:  Although the Affordable Care Act was enacted in 2010, it continues to cause confusion amongst small and mid-size business owners alike.   The law is being phased-in over a number of years.  Mandates for large companies (50 or more full-time workers) to offer affordable coverage began in 2014.  Smaller companies are not required to offer health insurance but the government provides tax credits to very small companies (25 or fewer employees).  SEMA encourages member companies review their current situation, speak with health insurance professionals and determine how to proceed.  SEMA Government Affairs staff has compiled these resources with an easy to use website to assist our member companies with compliance at www.sema.org/healthcare.

OHVs and Land Use Legislation:  Threats to off-highway vehicle (OHV) access typically take form in legislation passed by Congress or regulations issued by the BLM, U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and other federal and state agencies. The actions threaten recreational access, designate lands as “wilderness” (roadless) or “National Monuments,” or unnecessarily close lands to protect endangered species.  Public land access issues are of keen interest to off-roaders and the SEMA-member companies that market products to those groups.  SEMA supports land-use decisions that are reasonable and enjoy local community support and will continue to monitor and keep SAN members informed of restrictive legislative proposals.

For additional information, please click on the following link:  http://www.semasan.com/page.asp?content=off_roading&g=semaga

National Monuments:  Under current law, the President has the authority to declare public land with “historic or scientific interest” to be a National Monument.  While the designation does not immediately close any roads, it prohibits new roads or trails for motorized vehicles and will require drafting of a new land management plan.  President Obama has created 19 national monuments while in office includingthe 700,000 plus acre Basin and Range National Monument in eastern Nevada and 330,000 acre Berryessa Snow Mountain Monument in Northern California in July 2015.  The President is now being pressured to establish three more monuments in the California desert covering over 1 million acresand the 1.4 million acres “Greater Canyonlands National Monument” in Utah, that would close 1,050 miles of off-road vehicle trails and monitor another 1,450 miles for future closure.  SEMA supports HR 900 and S 228 to require approval by the U.S. Congress and the impacted state legislature when creating a National Monument.

Utah Public Lands Initiative:  SEMA supports efforts by U.S. Congressmen Rob Bishop (R-UT) and Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) to create final federal land-use designations for 18 million acres of land in eastern and southern Utah.  Under the initiative, Utah’s eastern counties (San Juan, Daggett, Uintah, Carbon, Duchesne, Emery, Grand and Summit Counties) have put forward individual county recommendations, including protections for motorized recreation.  Although there may be some road/trail closures, the counties have a no net loss policy with the potential for positive trade-offs.  Chairman Bishop has publicly stated that his plan will include a provision to prohibit the president from using his powers under the Antiquities Act to designate national monuments in the counties covered by the proposal.  Given the divergent interests involved, including local communities, environmentalists, off-road groups, logging, grazing, energy interests, etc., the “Utah Public Lands Initiative” has taken a bit longer than intended to develop as legislation.  Action in 2016 is anticipated.  

National OHV Area Designations:  SEMA supports HR 3668, the “California Minerals, Off-Road Recreation, and Conservation Act” (CMORCA), whichwould permanently designate six existing OHV areas comprising 300,000 acres in San Bernardino County as national OHV areas: Johnson Valley, Spangler Hills, El Mirage, Rasor, Dumont Dunes and Stoddard Valley.  The bill prevents the president from designating national monuments within OHV and Special Management areas covered in this legislation and is the result of Rep. Paul Cook’s (R-CA) outreach to OHV, environmental, preservation, energy, military, and local communities to provide a pragmatic path forward for managing federal lands in the southern California deserts.  Click here to contact your lawmakers in support of this SAN supported bill: http://www.semasan.com/page.asp?content=aa_2015fed8&g=SEMAGA

Clear Creek Recreation Area:  SEMA supports HR 1838 to reopen the 75,000 acre Clear Creek National Recreation Area (NRA) in San Benito and Fresno counties California.  The bill would provide OHV access to over 240 miles of public trailsclosed in 2008 due to concerns surrounding exposure to asbestos.  The California Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Commission ordered an independent risk assessment study and concluded that the land could be managed without exposing the public to unacceptable risks. 

Congressional Automotive Performance and Motorsports Caucus:  The Caucus was formed in 1996 in honor of the 100th year of the American automobile and to recognize the contributions the automotive performance and motorsports industry has made to the U.S. economy. This informal and bi-partisan Congressional Caucus, which now has over 75 members, pays tribute to America’s ever growing love affair with the car, motorsports and the specialty auto parts industry.  Consumer sales of motor vehicle performance, appearance, comfort, convenience, and technology products total $36 billion in annually, while providing jobs for more than one million Americans.  In its 20-year history, the Caucus is serving to raise the industry’s profile on Capitol Hill and in the eyes of the public. The Caucus does not seek to reach a consensus on legislative issues. For more information on joining the "Motorsports Caucus,” please contact Christian Robinson, PAC & Congressional Relations Manager, at ChristianR@sema.org or 202.783.6007 ext. 20.

For more information about any of these issues, contact Eric Snyder at 202/783-6007, ext. 39 or erics@sema.org.

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