April 2000

Hard Work Rewarded: Virginia Passes 25-Year Rolling Emissions Exemption
In a notable victory for Virginia SEMA Action Network (SAN) hobbyists, SAN developed and supported legislation to exempt vehicles 25 years old and older from the state's mandatory emissions inspections passed in the Virginia Legislature and awaits the Governor's signature.
Existing law in Virginia only exempts vehicles manufactured prior to the 1968 model year from emissions inspections. This new bill (H.B. 1522) provides for a rolling 25-year exemption that would exempt pre-1975 vehicles upon enactment and would pick up an additional model year for each year the law is in effect. The legislation is identical to a measure introduced last year that was derailed in the final days of the Virginia legislative session.
Originally advocated by SAN member Dirk Wright of the Virginia Automobile Protective Society and SEMA in the last legislative session, passage of H.B. 1522 was a long time in coming. Virginia SAN clubs will recall that last year's fight for an emissions exemption was killed in a last-minute legislative procedural move that was characterized as a "blindside" by Wright and other Virginia SAN contacts.
Obviously, the groundwork we all performed last year helped immeasurably this year as H.B. 1522, sponsored by a resolute friend to the hobby, Delegate James Dillard (D), sailed through the legislature with little to no opposition. "We appreciate the persistence of the many Virginia vehicle clubs and those dedicated legislators who continue to fight the good fight on behalf of the automobile hobby," commented SEMA Director of State Relations, Steve McDonald. In particular SEMA would like to highlight the efforts of the following Virginia SAN clubs for their efforts in getting this bill passed: Virginia Automobile Protective Society, Southwest Virginia Car Club Council, Central Virginia Car Club Council, Roanoke Valley Mopar Club, Northern Virginia Corvette Club, Southeastern Virginia Mustang Club, and Virginia members of the United Four-Wheel-Drive Associations-notably the Poor Boys Four-Wheel-Drive Club.
SAN Awards Pacific Northwest Four-Wheel-Drive Association
SEMA Action Network (SAN) Director Brian Caudill awarded SAN member organization, the Pacific Northwest Four-Wheel-Drive Association (PNW4WDA) with a certificate of appreciation for its hard work and dedication in an effort to kill two raised vehicle bills introduced in the Oregon legislature last year. The failed bills, S.B. 574 and H.B. 2360 sought to restrict bumper, tire and suspension alterations. The SAN presentation took place at the association's 40th annual winter convention in Moses Lake, Washington.
PNW4WDA helped defeat the bills by packing hearing rooms with interested hobbyists and instituting an aggressive letter, phone and e-mail campaign. PW4WDA SEMA Action Network contact Carol Jensen noted: "By the time the association got through explaining to legislators what was wrong with the bills, one legislator looked at another and ironically said, Why don't we ban small cars instead?"
SAN Director Caudill commented: "We are pleased that the association gave Oregon legislators a lesson in common sense. Whenever vehicle hobbies encounter a threat in the Pacific Northwest, the PNW4WDA is there to respond with numbers, power and efficiency. This is how grassroots action is supposed to work and SEMA thanks them for their efforts."
The Pacific Northwest Four-Wheel-Drive Association is an organization representing off-highway vehicle clubs in Oregon, Washington state and Idaho . For more information about the organization, contact SEMA Action Network members Don and Carol Jensen at jensendc@teleport.com or visit the association's web site at www.pnw4wda.org.
Nitrous Bans Altered in Georgia/Nebraska
SEMA has succeeded in modifying legislation in Georgia and Nebraska that sought to ban the presence of nitrous oxide systems in vehicles. As introduced, the Georgia bill (H.B. 1183) prohibited public road use of passenger cars or pickup trucks equipped to supply the engine with nitrous oxide. In other words, as originally written, H.B. 1183 would have outlawed vehicles equipped with nitrous oxide systems, regardless of whether they were used on public highways or not. By working with Rep. Allen Powell, SEMA was able to negotiate a compromise whereby nitrous oxide would not be banned outright in Georgia. Instead, the use of nitrous oxide would simply be prohibited on public roadways.
As originally written, the Nebraska bill (L.B. 1027) also sought to ban nitrous oxide systems with exceptions for vehicles going to or from racetracks or those vehicles from which the nitrous container has been removed. L.B. 1027 also had a troublesome provision; it would require hobbyists with nitrous oxide-equipped cars to display a decal on their bumper indicating that the vehicle is equipped with a nitrous oxide system. Luckily, SEMA was able to forge a compromise on this bill, simplifying the language (deleting any mention of going to or from a racetrack) and removing the need for a "nitrous-equipped"-style decal. Now the Nebraska bill mirrors the tone of the Georgia bill: nitrous oxide will remain legal for race applications, but not highway use.
SEMA Director of State Relations Steve McDonald noted: "Clearly, legislators are feeling pressure from constituents to restrict nitrous use on the street based on rare instances of misuse. SEMA has worked with bill sponsors in Georgia and Nebraska, SEMA Action Network clubs and SEMA member companies, to amend these bills to best accommodate the needs of all involved. In both states we managed to convince legislators that the mere presence of nitrous systems on vehicles should not constitute a violation."
Street Rod Classification Bill Introduced in Alabama...
At the behest of Alabama street rodders, a bill (H.B. 55) that would create a separate vehicle registration classification and special license plates for these vehicles has been introduced.
Specifically, H.B. 55 defines a street rod as a vehicle produced by an American manufacturer prior to 1949 which has undergone some type of modernization. H.B. 55 also provides for distinctive street rod license plates that would be designed by the Alabama Department of Revenue in consultation with the National Street Rod Association. These plates will be valid without renewal. In addition, the bill exempts street rods from both Alabama's vehicle licensing tax, as well as any personal property tax. Finally, H.B. 55 provides that street rods shall be used as collector's items and not for general transportation purposes.
...While an Effort to Redefine Street Rods Stalls in Maryland
Efforts to work with the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) to craft legislation revising the state's street rod definition and create a "custom" vehicle classification was postponed because of time constraints. The Maryland legislature is currently winding down its yearly activities. Current Maryland law allows modified vehicles more than 25 year old to be titled as "street rods," ignoring the traditional definition of a street rod as a modified vehicle of a style-year 1948 or older.
SEMA and Maryland SEMA Action Network members are disappointed that an accord was not reached this year, but are confident that real progress will be made next year. SEMA Action Network Director Brian Caudill commented: "At the recent Kent Island Cruisers' annual Legislative Breakfast, I brought up the idea of again pushing a street rod/custom bill next year, and I was impressed with the enthusiastic response. We have a real shot at getting something done in the next legislative session."
Minnesota Considers Blue-Dot Taillights
The Minnesota House Transportation Policy Committee approved a Minnesota bill that would allow collector vehicles to display a blue light of up to 1 inch in diameter as part of a vehicle's rear brake light. The legislation (H.B. 3053), endorsed by the Minnesota Street Rod Association (MSRA), recognizes that blue-dot taillights have no detrimental impact on safety and would give street rodders the same rights already enjoyed by motorcycle enthusiasts throughout the state. A companion bill (S.B. 2508) awaits consideration in the Senate.
Public Support of Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) Use at All-time High
By Carla Boucher, Legislative Representative, United Four-Wheel-Drive Associations
On March 7, 2000, United Four-Wheel-Drive Associations, Blue Ribbon Coalition and numerous other multiple-use groups conducted a national Pro-OHV call-in day to the Chief of the U.S. Forest Service. The purpose of the call-in was to educate Chief Michael Dombeck about the dedication to forest health and conservation ethics of the motorized recreation community. The message was simple: "Public land is for public use, including OHV use.
The call-in was more successful than anyone might have thought. The Forest Service realized early on that its employees would not be capable of handling massive amounts of calls, so it implemented a voice messaging service to record everyone's comments. Instead of staffing one phone at the Chief's office, the Forest Service set up a bank of 9 phones. By 6:00 p.m. (EDT) the voice messaging systems were full. As fast as employees could listen to the messages and clear them off the system, the system refilled with additional calls. The Forest Service's early estimates calculated that it received a phone call every 30 seconds, all day long, from someone dedicated to keeping National Forest lands open to OHV use!
The calls, faxes and e-mails came from every part of the United States. As of yet, the Forest Service has not released the number of faxes it has received, however, a spokesman did say that the National Forest System's office e-mail system was totally filled, turning away countless numbers of e-mails.
It wasn't the volume of calls that OHV enthusiasts should be most proud of, but rather the strong message it sent. With few exceptions, the messages recreationists left focused on conservation ethics, such as the promotion of TreadLightly! (an educational program to teach the concepts of responsible travel on private and public lands), the benefit and proliferation of volunteerism and a plea for the Forest Service to request more money for road and trail projects from Congress.
During the past several months, anti-access groups have used false information to petition the Forest Service and other land-management agencies to completely ban OHV use. One such petition presented to the Forest Service stated that if the chief did not comply with demands to ban OHV use and issue a rule making notice in the Federal Register, the Forest Service would face litigation. As a means to scare the chief into action, the anti-access groups had scheduled their own version of an OHV call-in day-an "Anti-Access" call-in day.
These extreme anti-access views have been overshadowed by the voices of reason emanating from the OHV community. The positive impact of the pro-access call-in campaign has left a long-lasting impression on the Forest Service. The chief wasn't the only one to get a clear message about the public's support for motorized recreation. The message has also resonated to other recreation policymakers in Washington, D.C.
Headlamp Legislation in Washington State Will Not See Light of Day
Legislation (H.B. 2791) that would have required the state patrol to compile and publish a list of vehicles that, as manufactured, do not meet federal standards for headlights will not get a committee hearing in the Washington State legislature. The bill would also have forced registration applicants to signify if they had modified factory-installed headlamps. The measure, introduced at the request of a constituent concerned with headlamp glare, suffered from a faulty premise and lack of popular support among legislators.
"In our conversations with the bill's sponsor, we made clear that all motor vehicle manufacturers must strictly adhere to federal regulations. There is no evidence that any of the manufacturers have failed to meet these obligations for any required equipment, including headlamps," said SEMA Director of State Relations Steve McDonald. "Further, headlamps that have been modified are regulated by the federal government as well and are not subject to state oversight." Because the measure could still be attached as a rider to an existing bill, SEMA will continue to monitor its progress.
West Virginia Bill Restricts Hobbyists
The West Virginia legislature has introduced a bill that would restrict property owners to one "junked" motor vehicle on private property. The West Virginia bill (H.B. 4337) would make violators pay up to $500 in fines and/or face imprisonment in the county jail for up to 6 months. H.B. 4337 would make it difficult for hobbyists to work on multiple collector vehicles on private property and demonstrates a lack of understanding of the vehicle hobby and the rights of hobbyists.
Inoperable Vehicle Bill Hits Alabama
In Alabama, a bill (H.B. 20) has been introduced that would allow a municipality or county to remove inoperable motor vehicles from private property when the vehicle is deemed a "nuisance." Under H.B. 20, a vehicle would be considered inoperable if one or more of its major components are missing, not functional or otherwise constitute a "nuisance." These vehicles must have remained on private property and in view of the general public for at least 30 days. At press time, this bill had somehow managed to pass the Alabama House Local Government Committee and was headed for consideration in the full Alabama House of Representatives. Alabama SEMA companies and SEMA Action Network Clubs such as the Alabama Vehicle Council, the Shelby County Wheels of Time Car Club and the AACA, Deep South Region have all been alerted to this anti-hobbyist bill.
Vermont 'Junkyard' Definition Redefined
Moving north, yet another inoperable vehicle bill threatens vehicle collectors, builders and restorers. H.B. 813 would amend Vermont's current definition of "junkyard," removing a requirement that a junkyard may be regulated only if it is used as a business. Specifically, H.B. 813 expands the junkyard definition to include any place with outdoor storage of four or more "junk" motor vehicles visible from a public highway and requires that these places be regulated as businesses, regardless of whether the vehicles' owner is merely a private collector or not. Vermont and New England Area SAN clubs have been alerted to this bill and have begun the process of educating Vermont legislators on the realities of the old car hobby. We would especially like to highlight the efforts of the Green Mountain Chapter of the American Truck Historical Society which responded immediately to the alert and have pledged to spread the word to their membership and legislators.
Note: The following state bills are not laws. They have been recently introduced and are currently being considered for adoption by the respective state legislatures.
ALABAMA: H.B. 438/S.B. 327 would allow enforcement of an I/M program on county-by-county basis.
CALIFORNIA: A.B. 567 would provide an emissions inspection exemption for vehicles driven 12,000 miles or less during preceding 2-year period.
CALIFORNIA: S.B. 1726 would allow a tax credit up to $3,000 for purchase of a new "zero-emission" vehicle.
COLORADO: H.B. 1381 would require low-emission diesel vehicles to undergo emissions testing every 3 years.
CONNECTICUT: S.B. 430 would waive emissions inspection requirement for vehicles manufactured 4 or less years ago.
FLORIDA: H.B. 473/S.B. 1416 would eliminate all vehicle emission testing in counties achieving required emissions clean-up standards.
GEORGIA: H.B. 1351 would require emissions inspections to be given not less than biennially.
MAINE: S.B. 868 would repeal state triggers for implementation of emissions testing program.
MARYLAND: H.B. 730 would prohibit dynamometer emission testing in Calvert County under certain circumstances; provides incentives for voluntary testing.
MARYLAND: H.B. 1218 would increase maximum emissions inspection fee from $14 to $20.
MISSISSIPPI: H.B. 910 would exempt vehicles manufactured, or having a model year less than 10 years old, from emissions inspection.
MISSOURI: H.B. 2067/S.B. 995 would suspend emission inspection program if problems exist that cause substantial inconvenience to motor vehicle owners.
WASHINGTON: H.B. 2421 would prohibit the adoption of I/M 240 emission inspections testing.
FLORIDA: S.B. 1622 would revise window tint rules; prohibits placing any material over headlamps that alters light color; prohibits material placed over taillamps which alter their visibility.
IOWA: H.B. 2139 would require that motor vehicles other than vans, passenger vans or SUVs must have a rear window with light transmittance of at least 70 percent.
IOWA: H.B. 2440 would require vehicles to display lighted headlamps during precipitation or other conditions of limited visibility.
KANSAS: H.B. 1381 would require auxiliary driving or fog lights to be turned off when within 500 feet of an oncoming vehicle or within 300 feet of a vehicle in front of them.
MARYLAND: H.B. 1109 would expand an exemption from a prohibition against window-tinting materials.
MISSOURI: S.B. 907 would permit window tinting on front, sideway vent, or window with light transmission of 35 percent or more and luminous reflectance of 35 percent or less.
OHIO: H.B. 579 would prohibit the manipulation of vehicle engine speed or transmission in a manner that results in the exhaust system emitting a loud cracking or chattering noise.
MARYLAND: H.B. 1110 would require emissions inspection facilities to inspect for protruding metal, unsafe tires, window cracks, etc., and other easily observable safety hazards.
GEORGIA: H.B. 1368/S.B. 234 would require use of OEM parts in repairing vehicles as part of an insurance claim during the manufacturers factory warranty period.
MAINE: H.B. 1506 defines salvage, total loss and unrebuildable vehicles.
MISSISSIPPI: S.B. 2215 would provide for titling of salvage and rebuilt vehicles; provides that when the frame or engine is removed and not immediately replaced, motor vehicle is "salvage."
OKLAHOMA: S.B. 1557 would define and allow registration of "remanufactured vehicles."
PENNSYLVANIA: H.B. 430 would define a "reconstructed" vehicle and provides for its proper titling.
ALASKA: H.B. 407 would provide for special license plates and fees for antique vehicles.
IOWA: H.B. 2303 would allow certain vehicles more than 25 years old, or constructed to resemble a vehicle 25 years old or older, to display one plate on rear of vehicle if the other plate is carried in the vehicle.
MINNESOTA: H.B. 2824/S.B. 2578 would allow collector vehicles to display one rear plate.
MISSISSIPPI: H.B. 1034 would authorize issuance of personalized antique vehicle plates in lieu of special antique plates.
MISSISSIPPI: S.B. 5609 would allow antique vehicles to display year of manufacture license plates.
VIRGINIA: S.B. 42 would allow special plates for vehicles with authorized window-tinting material.