Back to Driving Force, Winter 2017

 

2017: The Year in Review

The automotive community’s ability to enjoy vehicles of all kinds is impacted continuously by laws and regulations. Accordingly, the SEMA Action Network (SAN) has influenced state and federal proposals affecting enthusiasts nationwide since 1997. Over the past 20 years, long battles have been waged over “Cash for Clunker” initiatives, unfair exhaust-noise restrictions, excessive taxes, titling and registration problems, backyard builds, racing and a slew of other issues. In fact, bills threatening the hobby earlier this year in multiple states were killed by SAN forces—some in less than 24 hours. The following details the SAN’s successes across the country on its platinum anniversary.

 

STATE UPDATE
Arkansas Historic Vehicles: After an outpouring of opposition statewide, legislation to substantially increase the age requirement for vehicles eligible for registration as historic or special interest vehicles was withdrawn by the sponsor. Under the bill, the age requirement would have been raised from 25 to at least 45 years old. The bill also would have required that a historic vehicle owner have registered one or more vehicles used for daily transportation. The bill had been introduced and rushed through the committee process on a single day before being withdrawn from consideration on the House floor.

California Emissions: Legislation to extend the emissions inspection exemption for new cars from 6 to 8 model years was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown. Under the new law, the newly exempted motor vehicles (model years 7 and 8) would be subject to an annual smog abatement fee of $25. The law becomes effective on January 1, 2019.

California OHVs: A bill to permanently reauthorize California’s Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation (OHMVR) program was signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown. The OHMVR program was established in 1971 and allows user taxes and fees to directly fund OHV management and facility maintenance, without general fund taxes. The new law reauthorizes the OHMVR program indefinitely and protects this program, which has been identified worldwide as a model for successful OHV management that supports local economies and benefits conservation and our natural resources.

Connecticut Antique Vehicles: A measure to increase the age requirement of an antique, rare or special interest motor vehicle from 20 years old or older to 30 years old or older was amended to remove all restrictions to these hobby vehicles. The amendments also removed language that would have increased the maximum property tax assessment on any antique, rare or special interest motor vehicle from $500 to $1,000. As introduced, the bill provided that those vehicles no longer eligible for antique, rare or special interest motor vehicle status would be valued at the same percentage of its actual valuation, thereby increasing the property tax.

Delaware Emissions: Legislation to extend the emissions inspection exemption for new cars from 5 to 7 model years was signed into law by Governor John Carney. Emissions inspections are required for vehicles being registered or titled for the first time in Delaware and biennially based on their model year (during registration renewals).

Hawaii Exhaust Noise: A legislative effort to provide that no motor-vehicle muffler or exhaust system shall emit a noise level greater than 60 decibels did not receive committee consideration this year but is eligible for consideration in 2018. The bill exempted those mufflers or exhaust systems installed as original equipment. Among other things, the measure provided no test by which vehicles would be tested.

Hawaii Fee Increases: Legislation to increase annual registration fees, increase the gas tax and increase the motor vehicle weight tax was not given committee consideration this year. The bill increased the annual registration fee from $45 to $75, increased the weight tax by $.01 per pound and increased the gas tax from $.16 to $.22.

Indiana Exhaust Noise: A bill to require all motor vehicles to be equipped with a factory installed or equivalent aftermarket muffler died when the legislature adjourned for the year. Indiana already requires that exhaust systems be “in constant operation to prevent excessive or unusual noise or smoke.” Among other things, the bill failed to recognize that factory replacement parts or comparable parts are not always readily available for all motor vehicles and would have made it difficult for consumers to replace factory exhaust systems with more durable, better performing options.

Kentucky Headlamps: A measure to allow headlamps that emit a slight blue tint if the headlamps were installed by the vehicle manufacturer as original equipment or the aftermarket headlamps meet federal motor vehicle safety standards was signed into law by Governor Matt Bevin.

Kentucky Mileage-Based User Fee: A House Concurrent Resolution to create a mileage-based transportation funding task force to determine the feasibility of implementing a road user fee instead of the gas tax died when the legislature adjourned. The resolution would have required the Mileage-Based Transportation Funding Task Force to submit its findings, recommendations and any proposed legislation by December 1, 2017.

Kentucky OHVs: Legislation to promote and fund outdoor recreation and tourism development by establishing the Kentucky Mountain Regional Recreation Authority (KMRRA) was signed into law by Governor Matt Bevin. Under the new law, the state will establish, maintain and promote a recreational trail system throughout the KMRRA to increase economic development, tourism and outdoor recreation for residents and visitors. The law will provide recreational opportunities for, among other things, all-terrain vehicle riding, motorcycle riding, rock climbing, off-highway vehicle driving and pleasure driving.

Maine Mileage-Based User Fee: A proposal to establish a task force to guide the development of a mileage-based user-fee pilot program has been amended to remove reference to the user fee. The revised bill seeks to establish the Commission to Study Transportation Funding Reform, charged with studying how to reform and supplement funding for transportation infrastructure to promote equity, sustainability and predictability. Under the bill, the commission is required to report its findings and recommendations, including suggested legislation, to the Joint Standing Committee on Transportation no later than December 6, 2017.

Montana Single Plate: Legislation to provide for the issuance of a single rear-mounted license plate for certain motor vehicles was signed into law by Governor Steve Bullock. Under the new law “if a person is not able to comply with the requirement that a front license plate be displayed because of the body construction of the motor vehicle, the person may submit to the Highway Patrol an application for a waiver along with a $25 inspection fee.” The law requires that the waiver certificate be carried in the motor vehicle and available upon demand by law enforcement. Vehicle owners are not obligated to apply for the waiver or pay the fee.

Nevada Classic Vehicles: Poorly drafted legislation to alter the registration requirements for “classic” vehicles was withdrawn by the bill’s sponsor. Under the measure, the holder of a classic vehicle license plate seeking an emissions inspection exemption would have been required to verify the odometer reading of the vehicle. These verifications would have been completed for a fee by an approved inspector to determine that the vehicle was driven less than 5,000 miles the previous year. The bill also required proof that the vehicle was covered only by a collector motor-vehicle liability policy. The SAN will host a stakeholders meeting in the state later this year to discuss practical methods by which the law can be applied to better target abusers of the classic plate.

Nevada Vintage Plates: Legislation to extend the model-year vehicles eligible to receive vintage license plates from not later than 1942 to not later than 1961 was signed into law by Governor Brian Sandoval. Vintage plates are produced by the state to appear the same as the plates that were issued in Nevada during the year of manufacture of the vehicle. The fee for vintage plates is $35 and are renewable upon payment of $10.

New Hampshire Road Usage Fee: A bill to establish a road usage fee for all state motor vehicles with a miles-per-gallon rating of more than 22.5 was not considered this year. The bill would have required that the fee be collected at the time of annual registration of the vehicle. In addition to creating privacy concerns, road usage fees penalize national efforts to create a more fuel-efficient vehicle fleet by taxing drivers based on vehicle mileage. As gas tax revenues decrease due to hybrid and electric vehicle ownership, states are looking for new sources of funding for pet projects.

North Dakota OHVs: A bill to allow out-of-state OHVs that are exempt from a registration fee in the state to purchase a public trails and lands access permit was signed into law by Governor Doug Bergum. Under the new law, the cost of the permit will be $10 per year and would be displayed prominently on the OHV. In North Dakota, OHVs exempt from registration fees include those validly licensed in another state and which have not been within the state for more than 30 consecutive days, those used exclusively on private lands and those used exclusively in organized track racing events.

Oregon Military Vehicles: A measure to allow a military vehicle the opportunity to be registered as a “vehicle of special interest” has been signed into law by Governor Kate Brown. Included in the definition would be a “high mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle originally manufactured for military use.” Owners may apply for the special interest vehicle registration for a one-time fee of $81 and a single plate for a one-time fee of $12. Special-interest vehicles may only be used for exhibitions, parades, club activities and similar uses.

Oregon Old Car Tax: Legislation that would have required registered owners of vehicles 20 years old and older to pay a $1,000 “impact tax” every five years was quickly killed after an onslaught of objections were lodged by vehicle owners in the state. Under the bill, vehicles registered as antiques would have been exempted from the tax. House Speaker Tina Kotek’s office confirmed with the SAN that the bill would not be considered and was dead on arrival.

Virginia Antique Tax: Governor Terry McAuliffe signed into law a measure to exempt a motor vehicle, trailer, or semitrailer that is licensed as an antique from the imposition of local license tax and fees. Virginia law defines an antique motor vehicle as “every motor vehicle which was actually manufactured or designated by the manufacturer as a model manufactured in a calendar year not less than 25 years prior to January 1 of each calendar year and is owned solely as a collector’s item.”

West Virginia Abandoned Vehicles: A bill to create a special procedure for a person in possession of an abandoned antique vehicle to apply for and receive title to the vehicle was signed into law by Governor Jim Justice. Under the new law, the state will search for the owner of the vehicle and provide notice that an application has been filed for title to the vehicle. The law also creates a fair procedure for an owner to reclaim the vehicle within 30 days of notice of an application for title to the vehicle and creates a misdemeanor and imposes fines for interfering with an owner’s attempt to reclaim a vehicle. Antique motor vehicles are those vehicles manufactured more than 25 years before the current date.

West Virginia Ethanol: A West Virginia House Resolution supporting the passage of legislation introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives to roll back ethanol fuel requirements was approved. The resolution recognizes that ethanol can cause metal corrosion and dissolve certain plastics and rubbers, especially in older motor vehicles that were not constructed with ethanol compatible materials. The resolution also acknowledges that pending U.S. House legislation would prohibit the sale of gasoline containing 15% ethanol in order to meet artificial Renewable Fuel Standards deadlines.

West Virginia Exhaust Systems: A bill that would have made it a criminal offense to disturb the peace with “noise from an exhaust system of any vehicle that is not equipped or constructed to prevent any disturbing or unreasonably loud noise” died when the legislature adjourned for the year. Under the bill, vehicle owners convicted of a violation would have been fined up to $1,000 per occurrence, confined up to six months in jail or both. Current law only allows a muffler originally installed by the manufacturer or an equivalent. The law provides no objective noise measurement standard for exhaust systems that would benefit consumers, industry and police officers charged with enforcing the law. The term “disturbing or unreasonably loud” is highly subjective and open to wide interpretation.

West Virginia License Plates: Legislation to require registration plates on the front and back of all motor vehicles died when the legislature adjourned for the year. The bill was not given consideration by the Senate Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. In addition to increasing costs, the measure would have wasted valuable resources and brought West Virginia into conflict with other states that are moving to a single plate requirement.

West Virginia Light Bars: Legislation to eliminate the requirement that roof-mounted off-road light bars be covered when vehicles are operated on roads and highways was signed into law by Governor Jim Justice. The bill also raises the number of permissible auxiliary passing lamps and auxiliary driving lamps from one to two. The new law requires that light bars be turned off when vehicles are being operated on roads and highways and promotes the fact that aftermarket lighting systems are manufactured to improve off-road safety.

West Virginia OHV Areas: Governor Jim Justice signed into law legislation to require the state create a searchable digital road map which indicates the condition of public roads. The new law requires that a digital road map indicate whether public roads are unpaved and unimproved, unpaved and improved, unlined and paved, or lined and paved. The digital road map will also indicate the types of vehicles that may use each road, including fullsize vehicles and off-highway vehicles, such as all-terrain vehicles, utility-terrain vehicles, motorcycles and off-road vehicles.

National Collector Vehicle Appreciation Day: At the request of the SAN, Senators Jon Tester (D-MT) and Richard Burr (R-NC) once again secured passage of a U.S. Senate resolution (S. Res. 215) recognizing Collector Car Appreciation Day (CCAD) on Friday, July 14, 2017. The day serves to focus attention on the vital role automotive restoration and collection plays in American society. Thousands of Americans gather at car cruises, parades and other events to celebrate our nation’s automotive heritage. Next year’s event is scheduled for July 13, 2018.

A number of domestic and foreign jurisdictions recognized CCAD 2017. They include:

  • Louisiana: Gov. Bobby Jindal signed into law a bill that every year will designate the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of the second weekend in July as “Louisiana Collector Car Appreciation” weekend.
  • West Virginia: The West Virginia Legislature passed a House Concurrent Resolution designating the second Friday in July as Collector Car Appreciation Day in the state.
  • Wisconsin: An Assembly Joint Resolution to annually designate the second Friday in July as “Collector Vehicle Appreciation Day” in the state was approved by the full Wisconsin Assembly.
  • Canada: Most of the provincial governments issue annual proclamations to officially declare “Collector Car Appreciation Day” or “Automotive Heritage Month.” This year included British Columbia, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island and Saskatchewan.

 

FEDERAL UPDATE

RPM Act: Support for the “Recognizing the Protection of Motorsports (RPM) Act” continues to grow in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. Over 175 members of Congress have now co-sponsored the bipartisan bill. The RPM Act clarifies that the Clean Air Act allows motor vehicles to be converted into dedicated race cars and that it is legal to produce, sell and install race parts for these vehicles. Passage of the RPM Act will protect sales beyond emissions-related parts, including racing tires, wheels, brakes, suspension equipment and roll cages. Customers won’t be buying and installing these products if a car or motorcycle cannot be converted into a dedicated race vehicle. The House Environment Subcommittee held a hearing on the bill in September and lawmakers are being urged to schedule additional action.

Replica Vehicle Law: A SAN-supported law enacted in 2015 will allow small auto manufacturers to sell completed replica cars. These are vehicles that resemble cars manufactured at least 25 years ago. The companies will be able to produce up to 325 turnkey replica vehicles (per company) in the United States and 5,000 worldwide under a simplified regulatory system. 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. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and California Air Resources Board are still working on regulations to implement the law, which was scheduled to take effect in 2017.

E15/Ethanol: A SAN-supported bill to cap the amount of ethanol that can be blended into conventional gasoline at 10% and prohibit the sale of E15 (gasoline with 15% ethanol) has been introduced. The bill would eliminate the Renewable Fuel Standard’s (RFS) mandate that 15 billion gallons of corn-based ethanol be blended into the U.S. fuel supply each year. 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 EPA has turned to sales of E15 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. The SAN has joined with more than 50 other organizations to support the bill’s passage. Congress is not expected to pass legislation until the “blend wall” has been reached—the point at which no more ethanol can be blended without forcing higher blends such as E15 and above into the marketplace. The legislation is divided more on whether the politicians represent corn-growing regions rather than political party affiliation.

Bonneville Salt Flats (BSF): The salt flats have significantly decreased in size, strength and thickness over many decades as salt brine was channeled away from the area. The SAN, along with other organizations and companies comprising the Save the Salt Coalition, is working closely with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which manages the salt flats, in addition to federal and state lawmakers, on ways to restore the BSF and its 13-mile speedway. The Coalition has proposed a comprehensive plan, which includes increasing the amount of salt being pumped onto the salt flats during the winter. The Coalition is working with the adjoining potash mine owner on plans to dramatically increase the amount of salt being pumped onto the salt flats and with lawmakers to fund the program.

National Monuments: Last April, President Trump ordered the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) to review up to 40 national monument designations dating back to 1996 and recommend whether any should be rescinded, resized or modified. The DOI recommended that 10 national monuments be modified, including a size reduction for four monuments: Grand Staircase-Escalante (1.88 million acres), Bears Ear (1.35 million acres), both in Utah, Nevada’s Gold Butte (300,000 acres) and Washington’s Cascade-Siskiyou (87,000 acres). President Trump will now consider the recommendations. At issue is the 110-year-old Antiquities Act, a law that gives the president authority to preserve land with significant natural, cultural or scientific features. Hundreds of millions of acres have been set aside over the decades leading many to question whether the footprints are larger than necessary. The SAN supports the current review along with legislation in the U.S. Congress to curtail the President’s power to unilaterally designate national monuments by requiring their approval by Congress and the impacted state legislature(s). The issue is consequential since national monuments automatically prohibit new roads or trails for motorized vehicles and require a new land-management plan be drafted that could lead to more road closures.

California OHVs: The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that requires the BLM to reopen the 75,000-acre Clear Creek National Recreation Area (NRA) in California’s San Benito and Fresno Counties for recreational use, including OHV access. The bill would provide OHV access to more than 240 miles of public trails. Clear Creek NRA was closed in 2008 due to potential asbestos exposure concerns. However, an independent risk-assessment study requested by the California Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Recreation Commission concluded that management and operational strategies could be effectively employed to allow OHV use without exposing the public to unacceptable risks. The legislation has been referred to the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.


ENTHUSIASTS UNITED TO ADVANCE AUTOMOTIVE FREEDOMS

The future of our prized cars and trucks is being threatened! Add your voice to our growing U.S. and Canadian forces united to advance our automotive freedoms. SAN members defend the hobby by responding to timely e-mail updates on vehicle-related legislation and regulations. No fees. No SPAM. No obligations. Great strength comes with great numbers. Can we count on you to help preserve the classics of today and tomorrow?

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