March 1998

Colorado Senate Kills Suspension Bill

In a victory for automotive enthusiasts and SEMA, legislation (S.B. 34) that would have restricted the ability of light-duty truck and sport utility owners to make suspension alterations and tire modifications to their vehicles has been withdrawn.

As introduced, S.B. 34 would have prohibited the operation of any vehicle on a public highway if the height or equipment configuration had been altered from the original manufacturer's specifications. The bill sponsor, working with SEMA and a coalition of car clubs and enthusiasts, had amended the bill to permit a maximum frame height of 31 inches and a maximum body floor height of 5 inches. The frame height would have been the distance between the ground and the lowest point of the frame. In killing the legislation, the bill sponsor cited the potential of the measure in becoming a divisive battleground issue in a short and busy legislative session.

The coalition of car clubs and SEMA expect to see similar legislation next session and will be working to build support for a hobbyist-favorable bill.

California Scrappage Program Under Fire

The South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD) killed a proposal to provide new funding for vehicle scrappage programs operated under their authority.

At a recent SCAQMD hearing, SEMA provided testimony citing the lack of proof that scrappage programs result in any significant reduction in emissions. The association also noted the harmful effects of such programs on vehicle enthusiasts and low-income drivers.

The scrappage program administered by SCAQMD has recently come under attack by a top inspector inside the agency who has questioned the effectiveness of scrapping vehicles. The SCAQMD whistleblower is among those who charge that many cars turned in for scrapping "either barely run or can't pass smog inspections," undermining claims made by SCAQMD that scrappage reduces emissions. Furthermore, SCAQMD officials concede they have never actually tested the calculations that are the basis for their claims of smog reduction. The board decided to defer additional funding for the scrappage program until an investigation into the concerns raised by hobbyists, SEMA and others could be conducted.

Repair/Retrofit Bill Passes Arizona Senate Committee

The Arizona Senate's Committee on Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment has passed legislation (S.B. 1427) that would create a voluntary vehicle repair and retrofit program as part of a larger air-quality control initiative. SEMA is pleased that the bill, unlike another repair/retrofit bill in the House, contains no provision for the scrappage of vehicles. S.B. 1427 is expected to be taken up by the full Senate in the near future.

The bill would require vehicles to be emission tested prior to qualifying for the program, functionally operational, titled in Arizona for a 2-year period and at least 12 years old. Owners of vehicles that qualify for the repair and retrofit program would pay the first $150 as a co-payment.

The measure was amended in committee to provide that vehicles requiring more than $500 in repairs or retrofit parts and labor costs are not eligible unless the vehicle owner chooses to pay any additional costs. Under the amendment, the state would be obligated only to contribute $350 toward the repair and retrofit. SEMA is attempting to establish the average amount for labor costs and retrofit equipment under other such programs, as well as the average repair costs to prepare vehicles for retrofit, in order to determine whether the Arizona payment formula is feasible. The bill's sponsor will consider further amending the bill before it comes to a vote by the full Senate if the current formula is shown not to be viable.

D.C. 'Salute' Promises Unique Opportunity to Meet with Legislators

The upcoming SEMA "Salute to the Automotive Performance and Motorsports Industry" in Washington, D.C. (May 5-6), will provide a unique opportunity to come to the nation's capitol to speak directly with members of Congress regarding issues of importance to the aftermarket.

Among the highlights is a reception in honor of the Congressional Automotive Performance Caucus in the U.S. Capitol on May 5.

Joining the industry on Capitol Hill will be a number of celebrities including Wally Parks, Al Unser, Carroll Shelby, Don Prudhomme and John Force.

SEMA Distributes Repair/Upgrade Position Paper

The SEMA Washington, D.C., staff has prepared an industry "white" paper detailing the benefits of repair and upgrade as an alternative to motor vehicle scrappage programs. The paper is intended for use in persuading state legislators and regulators to adopt more effective vehicle emission-reduction alternatives.

Bill to Exempt Older Vehicles from Smog Inspection Moves Through Washington Legislature

Legislators in the Washington State House overwhelmingly passed a provision to exempt older cars from emissions inspections. All vehicles more than 25 years old would be exempted from the emissions test requirement beginning Jan. 1, 2000. The legislation, part of a broader pollution bill (H.B. 1354), is now pending before the Senate Agriculture and Environment Committee. SEMA and the Washington Car Club Council (WCCC) are urging members and enthusiasts to rally Senate support for the bill.

State Leader's Sound-Off

Dear Editor:

I would like to reply to Jenny Gayheart's comments [on insurance rates] in the November 1, 1997 issue of The Driving Force.

Insurance rates (premiums) are based on the exposure we present by either our driving record or the car we drive. They are based, like it or not, on facts (statistics).

It has been said that guns do not kill, but the people who use them do. The same is true of cars. They do not kill; it is the people who drive them. It is also true that a .357 magnum bullet does more damage than a small .22. The same is true of cars even when they hit others of the same size and weight. An SUV is a "dolled up" truck and when it hits another car it is going to cause a lot of damage.

SUVs are based on pickup trucks. They have the same wheelbase and tread width, but they have all that body on top. The center of gravity is high and stability probably has suffered. If it does roll, it will suffer damage not normal to other cars and the owner will, and should, pay higher collision premiums.

Because you drive an SUV, you cannot assume that you were wise to do it or that it is safer than another car. What makes a car safe is the driver. Since we are all human, we make mistakes and unfortunately accidents occur. I know that even though I drive a van, the care with which I drive makes the car safe. A car that has not been involved in an accident is always a safe car.


Fred Weisbrod
AACA, Vintage Wheels chapter, Manatee City, FL

Newly Introduced State Legislation

The following state bills are not yet law; they have recently been introduced and are currently being considered for adoption. For more information, contact the SEMA Washington office.


MISSOURI S.B. 541 (S.B. 822) would declare that no vehicle that passes all emissions inspection components shall be failed on the basis of a visual inspection.

WASHINGTON H.B. 2745 would exempt vehicles 30 years old and older from the state's emissions inspection program.


UTAH H.B. 348 would require motor vehicles to be equipped with wheelcovers, mudguards, flaps, or splash aprons behind the rearmost wheels.


ALABAMA S.B. 310 (S.B. 237) would allow the owner of private property to remove an abandoned vehicle when it remains on property maintained by the property owner, if the vehicle has an expired tag or has remained in the same parking space for a period of 30 days or more.

MARYLAND H.B. 145 ( S.B. 141) would allow removal of a motor vehicle from private property at the request of the property owner, and without consent from the vehicle owner.

WASHINGTON H.B. 2744 would prohibit a municipality from implementing an ordinance or land use regulation that prevents an automotive hobbyist from restoring or collecting vehicles, as long as such vehicles are located out of ordinary public view by means of inside storage, suitable fencing, trees, shrubbery or otherwise.


KANSAS H.B. 2695 would exempt antique motor vehicles from the state's sales tax.

RHODE ISLAND H.B. 7466 would not require an insurer to offer insurance covering antique, specialty or high performance vehicles.

VIRGINIA S.B. 19 would exempt antique motor vehicles from the state's personal property tax.

WEST VIRGINIA H.B. 4423 would exempt antique motor vehicles and antique motorcycles from being classified as taxable personal property.


INDIANA H.B. 1145 would allow for antique motor vehicle license plates to indicate the year in which the vehicle was manufactured, if the vehicle is at least 25 years old.


ALABAMA S.B. 378 would define "street rod" as a vehicle produced by an American manufacturer prior to 1949, that has undergone some type of modernizing, including, but not limited to, engine, transmission, drivetrain or other modifications.

ALABAMA S.B. 10 would define "street rod" as a vehicle manufactured prior to 1949 that has undergone some type of modernizing to include engine, drivetrain, transmission and interior modifications; would provide for registration and issuance of special "street rod" license plates upon payment of a one-time $50 registration fee.

ARIZONA H.B. 2500 would define "classic car" as a vehicle that bears a model year date of original manufacture that is 25 years old or older and is included in the 1963 list of classic cars filed with the director by the Classic Car Club of America.

MARYLAND H.B. 1302 would define a "historic" vehicle as one that is not newer than the 1980 model year; would amend the definition of a "street rod" to add a provision that the vehicle be of model year 1948 or older; would require that the new owner of a street rod provide proof that within one month prior to the date of application for registration, the street rod has passed a safety inspection that has been approved by the administration and is substantially similar to the National Street Rod Association's (NSRA) 23-point inspection.

WASHINGTON H.B. 2743 would create a statutory definition of "street rod" to include vehicles assembled or manufactured after 1949 but made to resemble a vehicle manufactured before 1949, and vehicles whose bodies have been constructed from non original materials or have been altered dimensionally.


WEST VIRGINIA H.B. 4045 would allow vehicles with a GVWR of 10,000 lbs. or less to have a bumper height of up to but not beyond 35 inches from the ground; would allow tires to extend up to 3 inches laterally beyond the fender.

Can You Believe?

Here is another regulatory horror story, an example of unfair or illogical laws and regulations that place unnecessary burdens on businesses and individuals. If the following example makes you as angry as they make us, let your Representative know and offer to work with him/her to reduce the onslaught of regulations. Also, let the SEMA Washington office staff know if you have any similar horror stories to share; we'll keep track of all calls, as well as print them in upcoming editions.

EPA Puts Company on the Chopping Block

Joyce Chen Inc., a small business employing 16 workers, developed an antibacterial cutting board for everyday kitchen use. The unique feature of the cutting board is that the antibacterial additive in the cutting board was already regulated by the FDA as a flavoring substance and is a product that the FDA has determined so safe that it is allowed to be added directly to food. Thus the company did not expect --or face -- any problems in getting the FDA to determine that the product was in compliance with FDA regulations. (Cutting boards and other household items are regulated by the FDA.

Without warning, 6 months after the approval process was completed and the product was being sold on the market the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a Stop Sale Use and Removal Order (SSURO) which applies criminal sanctions if the company fails to stop selling the product immediately. The reason the EPA gave for issuing the order: the cutting board was a pesticide and must be regulated by the EPA under the Food Quality Protection Act.

The EPA fined the company $82,000 and issued a nationwide press release. The firm was told that to continue selling the product it must register the antibacterial additive as a pesticide through the EPA registration process, which can take years and cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. The only other option was to reformulate the product with an additive that was already registered with the EPA but was not considered as safe as the ingestible ingredient currently being used. The firm felt it had no choice and did reformulate the product, at great expense to the firm, and put a product on the market that the company considers inferior.