SEMA Federal Legislative Priorities: 2014

Low-Volume Motor Vehicle Manufacturing: SEMA supports legislation that would enable low volume car manufacturers to provide a range of specialty vehicles for customers nationwide.  HR 4013, The “Low Volume Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Act” directs the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to establish a regulatory structure covering limited-production vehicles (1,000 or fewer vehicles a year).  The U.S. does not have a separate process for certifying automobiles produced in limited numbers.  The system is only designed to regulate companies that mass-produce millions of vehicles and the American consumer is unnecessarily restricted to a “one-size-fits-all” marketplace.  H.R. 4013 creates an alternative regulatory program for American companies that acknowledges the unique circumstances associated with limited production custom vehicles.

The bill provides for the manufacture of two types of vehicles: “replica” and “non-replica.”  Replica vehicles can be produced up to 1,000 per manufacturer while non-replica vehicles are limited to 50 per manufacturer and up to 1,000 units industry-wide.  Replica vehicles are cars that resemble the body of another vehicle produced at least 25 years ago.  Non-replicas cover everything else, from custom cars to green alternative energy vehicles.  In each case, these are generally specialty-type cars found in exhibitions and parades or used for occasional transportation.  Both replica and non-replica vehicles would meet current emissions standards, with low volume manufacturers being permitted to install engines that have already been EPA-certified for vehicles being produced by the larger automakers.

HR 4013 will have an immediate positive effect on the American economy by invigorating a depleted manufacturing base and potentially creating thousands of jobs in the automotive sector. This reasonable regulatory approach will allow American companies to offer new, unique, and innovative products for American consumers, products that can be exported to emerging foreign markets.  HR 4013 will create millions in revenue for American companies, increase tax revenues for state and local jurisdictions, and spur much-needed developments for in-demand alternative-fuel vehicles.

Collector Car Appreciation Day: At the request of SEMA and the SEMA Action Network (SAN), U.S. Senators Jon Tester (D-MT) and Richard Burr (R-NC) co-sponsored Senate Resolution 153 designating July 12, 2013 as the Fourth Annual “Collector Car Appreciation Day.”  To celebrate, enthusiasts across the country gathered to recognize the value in collecting and restoring historic and classic cars.  With SEMA/SAN’s support, car clubs, enthusiast organizations, and affiliated businesses hosted more than 200 events to commemorate the day.  Events ranged from car cruises to small-business open houses and product giveaways.  SEMA/SAN plans to partner with Senator Tester and Senator Burr again to introduce a similar resolution designating July 11, 2014 as the fifth annual national “Collector Car Appreciation Day.” 

E15 Ethanol:  The U.S. Supreme Court rejected petitions to reconsider a lower court ruling allowing the sale of 15% ethanol in gasoline (E15).  The EPA approved E15 for use in 2001 and newer vehicles while making it illegal to fuel older cars, motorcycles and other motorized equipment based on evidence that it could cause damage to those vehicles and engines.  However, the EPA is only requiring a gas pump warning label instructing unsuspecting consumers that it is “illegal” to fill-up those products with E15.  Ethanol can cause metal corrosion and dissolve certain plastics and rubbers, especially in older cars that were not constructed with ethanol-resistant materials.  Attention has now turned to Congress to address the issue through legislation.  In 2013, a number of Congressional hearings were held on whether the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) should be repealed or scaled-back.  The RFS mandates that an increasing amount of biofuels be blended into gasoline each year, from 9 billion gallons in 2008 to 36 billion gallons by 2022, and E15 is the primary mechanism to achieve these mandates.  Key Congressional leaders have stated a full repeal of the RFS is unlikely when legislation is introduced in 2014 but reform is a viable option.  SEMA continues to work with a diverse coalition of organizations opposed to the RFS mandates, from the auto/boat industries to petroleum, food and environmental community.  The message: set more realistic RFS goals and rescind the E15 rule.

Bonneville Salt Flats: The Bonneville Salt Flats (BSF) is a national treasure and unique resource of international significance central to the history of motorsports.  Hundreds of land speed records have been set and broken there in a variety of automotive and motorcycle classes, and 2014 marks the 100-year anniversary for landspeed racing at the BSF.  It is also an important year in the effort to help save the Salt Flats, which significantly decreased in size, strength and thickness over a number of decades as salt brine was channeled away from the area.  That is no longer happening.  SEMA has joined with the Save the Salt Foundation and a number of other organizations and companies to support a requirement that salt brine be pumped onto the BSF.  About 600,000 tons of salt was pumped in 2013 and nearly 1 million tons the previous two years.  The “Save the Salt Coalition” is pursuing a public fundraising campaign to expand the pumping program and to pursue other alternative efforts.  This will include a dry salt laydown test to be conducted in late spring/early summer of 2014 to cover miles 0-2 of the International Track with at least 1 inch of salt.  All public contributions will be used to purchase salt and the equipment necessary to pump, transport and lay down the salt.

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 U.S. Forest Service (USFS), Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or 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 continues to support land-use decisions that are reasonable and enjoy local community support. SEMA will continue to monitor and keep SAN members informed of restrictive legislative proposals. 

National Monuments:  SEMA-supported legislation has been introduced in the U.S. Congress to require the President to complete an environmental review before designating more than 5,000 acres as a National Monument.  The bill would ensure public involvement in the process and discussion of multiple factors including economic impact.  Current law provides the President with authority to declare land of “historic or scientific interest” to be a National Monument which can lead to road closures for motorized recreation, among other activities.  For example, President Obama is under pressure to establish a 1.4 million acres “Greater Canyonlands National Monument” in Utah, close 1,050 miles of off-road vehicle trails and monitoring another 1,450 miles for future closure.  SEMA and its motorized recreation partners sent a letter to the President urging the administration to abandon the idea, citing the positive economic impact of motorized recreation activities, which accounts for over $257 million in annual economic impact nationwide.  SEMA is working with the Utah Congressional delegation, in particular Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT), to craft a more collaborative approach to land use decisions, including input from local citizens, elected leaders and other stakeholder.

Congressional Automotive Performance and Motorsports Caucus: The Caucus was formed in 1996 in honor of the 100th year of the car 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 $31 billion in annually, while providing jobs for more than a million Americans.  In its 17-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" or if you have any questions, please contact Dan Sadowski, Director of Congressional Affairs, at dans@sema.org or 202.783.6007 x. 19.

Health Care: The Affordable Care Act was signed into law in March 2010 and is sowing confusion for many SEMA members. The new law is being pashed-in over a number of years, and many deadlines are being extended to ensure that businesses can comply with the law’s requirements. It is not too soon for all companies to understand the law and plan accordingly. SEMA member companies are encouraged to 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.

Tax Code: Leaders of the House Ways and Means Committee have released recommendations for rewriting the American tax code. The “Tax Reform Act of 2014” is an ambitious legislative package intended to simplify both the corporate and individual tax codes.  It is the product of nearly a year of bipartisan work by committee members in consultation with stakeholders, academics and the general public.  Among the most important reforms include a top corporate tax rate of 25% percent to be phased in over 5 years, a permanent research and development (R&D) tax credit, making permanent enhanced Section 179 expensing for small businesses, a modified capitol cost recovery system, a repeal of the corporate alternative minimum tax (AMT), and a repeal of “last in, first out” (LIFO) rules with transition rules.  While the proposals include several SEMA-supported provisions, prospects for immediate consideration by Congress are weak.  Key House and Senate leaders indicated that Congress will not take up tax reform legislation before the November 2014 election.  Nevertheless, ongoing discussion is expected for action next year, and SEMA will continue to advocate that Congress immediately renew tax provisions that expired in 2013 such as the R&D tax credit. 

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