The Year In Review
2003 Legislative Victories For Automotive Hobbyists and Industry
In 2003, cooperative efforts between automotive hobbyists and the aftermarket industry that form the SEMA Action Network (SAN) resulted in numerous successes in the fight against adverse and poorly formulated legislation and regulations across the country.
The SAN's determined pursuit of its pro-active legislative agenda persuaded state legislators to overhaul existing statutes and create brand-new programs to safeguard and expand the specialty-equipment aftermarket. "The year 2003 brought a series of significant legislative and regulatory accomplishments for the industry and the vehicle-enthusiast community on issues ranging from equipment standards and registration classifications to emissions-test exemptions and hobbyist rights," said SEMA's Senior Director of Government Affairs, Steve McDonald. "On the federal side, the SAN acted on a broad range of legislative and regulatory issues critical to vehicle hobbyists. Our successes in 2003 once again demonstrated the benefits of active industry involvement and the grassroots potency of hobbyists across the country."
The combined efforts of SEMA, the Specialty Equipment Market Association, and the SAN have addressed successfully a number of issues in 2003. They include:
State-by-State and Canadian Update
California Exhaust Noise Testing Program: The California Bureau of Automotive Repair began operation of the state's motor vehicle exhaust-noise testing program. The program, the product of a SEMA- and SAN-sponsored law, will allow California automobile hobbyists to prove they comply with state noise standards.
California "Smoking" Vehicles/Emissions Exemption: Legislation to increase fines for violators of the state's current law that prohibits vehicles from emitting excessive smoke was signed into law. The bill was drafted by SEMA and supported by the SAN as an alternative to a measure that threatened to repeal the state's current rolling emissions test exemption for motor vehicles 30 years old and older.
California Replacement Tire Efficiency: California legislation that requires state regulators to develop a tire fuel-efficiency program for passenger-car and light-truck replacement tires was signed into law. A SEMA-drafted provision to exclude "hobbyist" tires from the program is included in the new law. The SAN-supported provision exempts from the scope of the law and subsequent regulation limited-production tires (15,000 or fewer annually), deep-tread snow tires, limited-use spares, motorcycle tires and tires manufactured for use on off-road vehicles.
Illinois Lamp Covers: The SAN succeeded in amending Illinois legislation that originally threatened to prohibit the installation and use of tinted lamp covers. Under the SAN's amendment, tinted lamp covers are permitted when the lamps are not required to be in operation. The bill passed in the House and is currently pending in the Illinois Senate.
Maine Exhaust Noise: On the heels of similar laws enacted in California and Washington State, a version of SEMA-model legislation to create an enforceable motor vehicle exhaust-noise standard was signed into law in Maine. Under its previous law, Maine deemed illegal all modifications that increased noise levels above that emitted by the vehicle's original muffler. Under the SEMA model, an exhaust system modification is legal if it results in a sound level of 95 decibels or less as measured by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) test standard J1169.
Maine Nitrous Oxide: SEMA and the SAN amended Maine legislation that originally threatened to prohibit the operation of vehicles equipped with nitrous oxide on public roads. The bill was signed into law. Under the amendment, vehicles equipped with nitrous oxide systems are permitted if all canisters of nitrous have been removed or if the vehicle is en route to or from a racetrack.
Maine Inoperable Vehicles: SAN-supported legislation to exempt certain hobbyist vehicles and activities from the scope of the state's automobile graveyard laws was signed into law. The measure exempts from automobile graveyard laws those areas used to store, organize, restore or display a motor vehicle or parts of vehicles that are collected by an automobile hobbyist.
Maryland Inspection Standards: Responding to SEMA's comments in opposition, the Maryland State Police withdrew a proposal to amend portions of the state's vehicle inspection regulations. The Maryland proposal was heavily weighted in favor of original manufacturer equipment and specifications for wheels and tires, exhaust systems, bumpers and lighting.
Massachusetts Aftermarket Exhaust Systems: Last year, the SAN was successful in killing Massachusetts legislation that sought to prohibit the sale or installation of aftermarket exhaust systems. That bill's sponsor pushed identical legislation this year and enlisted the support of the Boston City Council. To date, the SAN has been successful in stalling serious consideration of the new bill by the Massachusetts Legislature and the City Council.
Michigan Historic Vehicles: The SAN is working to amend the law in Michigan defining historic vehicles. Under current law, historic vehicles are permitted to be driven only in club activities, exhibitions, tours and parades. SAN-supported legislation recently introduced in both the House and Senate would allow these vehicles to also take advantage of "other occasional use" and lowered fees and state assessments.
Nebraska Kit Cars/Street Rods: SAN-supported legislation in Nebraska to provide for the titling and registration of kit cars, homebuilt vehicles and street rods was signed into law. Under previous Nebraska law, registration classifications did not adequately provide for these vehicles.
Ontario, Canada, Performance Equipment: Earlier this year, the SAN helped defeat an Ontario, Canada, bill that sought to ban certain automotive parts, substances and equipment used in racing. The bill was primarily directed at equipment that boosts engine performance. Recently, the measure was reintroduced as Bill 20. Heeding the recommendations of the SAN, the Ministry of Transportation redrafted the bill to focus specifically on the operation of vehicles equipped with nitrous oxide systems. The SAN persuaded the Canadian authorities to allow the presence of a nitrous system, if disconnected, while the vehicle was being operated on public roadways.
South Carolina Headlamps: The SAN convinced the South Carolina Legislature to completely withdraw legislation that would have prohibited the operation of motor vehicles with colored or tinted headlamps. The bill failed to make an exception for certain lighting equipment, including bulbs carrying a slight bluish tint that have been certified to federal standards or federally compliant high-intensity-discharge (HID) lamps that emit a bluish hue.
West Virginia Light Bars: SEMA and the SAN succeeded in amending West Virginia legislation that originally threatened to allow only original vehicle manufacturer's equipment light bars in the state. Under SAN's amendment, aftermarket light bars are permitted if used off-road, and if they are turned off and covered when the vehicle is being operated on state roadways. In addition, the lights are no longer required to be installed or aimed by the vehicle manufacturer. The bill was signed into law.
Federal Scrappage Legislation: SEMA and SAN efforts have, to date, blocked a U.S. Department of Transportation request to remove the ban that prohibits the funding of state vehicle-scrappage programs through the "Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program." The program pays for things like bike paths, carpool lanes and commuter parking lots. SEMA has received a pledge that the Senate will keep the scrappage-funding ban in place and is seeking a similar commitment from House leaders.
Federal Tire-Performance Standard: SEMA successfully advocated that most hobbyist tires continue to be regulated under the current tire standards rather than a new, tougher standard that would have required unnecessary design changes and expensive compliance testing and could have potentially halted production of popular models. Limited-production bias tires are exempted from the new rule, and SEMA is supporting a petition asking for a low-volume radial tire exemption as well.
Federal "Roadless Rule": SEMA and the SAN have successfully opposed legislation that would have banned road building on 58.5 million acres of U.S. Forest Service (USFS) land. The SAN supported USFS initiatives to modify the roadless regulation to allow more local input on land use and access decisions.
Wilderness Areas: "Wilderness" designations have a far-reaching impact on the OHV industry and its enthusiasts because motorized vehicles are denied access to lands designated as wilderness. On the regulatory front, the Bush Administration's Interior Department intends to refer to a 1991 Bureau of Land Management (BLM) inventory of potential "wilderness" areas rather than a more inclusive 1996 inventory conducted by the Clinton Administration. This action would exclude from consideration millions of additional BLM acres beyond the 23 million nationwide acres identified in 1991 (unless Congress specifically directs the government to protect more land). In Congress, a number of bills to expand the nation's wilderness areas have been introduced. The most significant measures would cover millions of acres in California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. At the moment, none of the bills has enough support to become law.
From the SAN Director
I want to thank you all for welcoming me to the SEMA Action Network and to the Specialty Equipment Market Association. Many took the time to write to me and to wish me well in my new endeavors. I am grateful to each of you for making the SAN the effective grassroots network that it is. During the first week of November, the SAN received 1,043 applications for membership. The enthusiast response can be attributed, in part, to the television commercial that has been airing on Spike TV that promotes the SAN. Whatever the reason, the response has been overwhelming. Thank you all for your support!
The SAN has accomplished quite a bit this year, as evidenced by our 2003 legislative accomplishments, which have been featured in this month's issue of Driving Force. When enthusiasts alert us to possible legislation that may harm our cars and our hobby, we immediately swing into action and contact legislators and state administrators on behalf of SAN members. We don't always play defense, though. We get ahead of the curve by working with legislators from various states who help introduce legislation helpful to hobbyists and enthusiasts, on issues ranging from exhaust-noise standards to overly broad restrictions on the use of vintage cars. The SAN represents all of us who love our vehicles and use them responsibly.
Lastly, a personal note. The fall season is finally here. Like all of you, we're busy here at SEMA and at home. "Back to school" quickly has turned into Halloween and Thanksgiving. Christmas and Chanukah are right around the corner. The fall is a great time to run your car or rod one more time before letting it hibernate for the winter. Let's take a moment, though, and pause to remember our veterans, and active-duty, reserve and National Guard personnel who have given so much so that we can enjoy and cherish the freedoms we have. Have a wonderful and safe holiday season!
-- Conrad Wong
Late-Breaking News: California Smog Standards May Be Tightened
The California Air Resources Board agreed to a plan that it claims will reduce air pollution in Southern California by more than 1,200 tons each day in order to meet upcoming tougher federal standards. The plan includes tougher emissions tests for personal vehicles, and could consist of another attempt to repeal the rolling Smog Check exemption for vehicles 30 years old and older. Tougher emissions tests would include more stringent cut points and the upgrade of several "basic" test areas to "enhanced" areas. Other proposals could include the mandatory replacement or upgrade of several emissions-control devices, loaded mode testing for trucks between 8,500 and 10,000 pounds GVWR, low-pressure evaporative system tests and expansion of vehicle scrappage programs. Regulators are also considering a proposal to implement remote-sensing programs, which would require motorists to submit their vehicles to an out-of-cycle Smog Check if identified by a remote sensor as having excessive emissions. Longer-term strategies include more stringent new-vehicle emissions standards (LEV III) and a third-generation OBD system (OBD III), which would electronically communicate vehicle emissions system status to regulators.
Members of the Mass Cruisers Auto Club celebrated Halloween in Burlington, Massachusetts, by joining in Paul Mannett's Magazine's 10th Annual Spooktacular. Automobiles and participants were appropriately attired. A "ghost trophy" was awarded to the club's latest project, the Hockamock Swamp Monster Ghoul Bus (in its former life, a 1977 International Harvester school bus). Lots of hands repainted the bus into a frightening entertainment machine. Inside, the bus had Halloween candy for the kids, along with ghouls, goblins and other surprises. (Thanks to John Buchanan, editor, Mass Cruisers Auto Club, for sharing the news and photos.)
Newly Introduced Legislation
Please note: The following state bills are not laws. They have been introduced recently and currently are being considered by the listed respective state legislatures. The list of active issues and matters that are still pending can be found online at www.semasan.com.
Minnesota S.B. 631: Amends existing regulations to include a prohibition against installation of windows or window treatments on motor vehicles belonging to others that would cause the motor vehicle to be in violation of current tinting standards.
New Hampshire H.B. 1167: Requires drivers to use headlights when continuously operating windshield wipers during inclement weather.
New Hampshire H.B. 1184: Would require all vehicles to be equipped with mud flaps or spray or splash guards, effective January 1, 2005.
Ohio H.B. 294: Requires use of vehicle headlights when windshield wipers are activated.
Pennsylvania H.B. 2061: Would amend the vehicle code, making unlawful certain sound systems that can be heard outside a vehicle from 50 or more feet away.
Kentucky BR 384 (Pre-file): A joint resolution that resolves to end Northern Kentucky Emissions Check Program on or before November 1, 2004.
New Hampshire H.B. 1293: Modifies the exemptions from emission-control-equipment requirements to include "antique vehicles."
Plates and Registration
Michigan H.B. 5040/S.B. 663: Amends the Michigan historic-vehicle definition to allow historic vehicles to be used for "other occasional uses" but not general transportation.
Pennsylvania S.B. 898: Amends the vehicle code to allow special plates bearing the designation "antique vehicle" for use on classic, collectible and antique vehicles.
We Get Letters!
I am a charter member of the WNY Mopars car club. It keeps me close to the one thing I love doing: working on cars.
The WNY Mopars meet every month. We have two chapters, one in Lockport, NY, and the other in Hamburg, NY. We are looking for speakers for our winter meetings. It is a good club with a lot of great members. We have over 200 members all around western New York State, Canada, Pennsylvania and Georgia. We host an annual two-day car show each June. We have put your SEMA literature in our registration bags. We do charity work to raise money to help children afflicted with spina bifida.
Please feel free to check out the Club homepage at: http://www.wnyliving.com/wnymopars/index.htm
-- Sandra M. Tomaszewski
Thanks for taking the time to write to us at SEMA and telling us about your background and that of the WNY Mopars. Thank you also for placing SEMA materials in your goody bags, which helps spread the word about the SEMA Action Network. SEMA applauds your efforts to protect our vehicles as well as your dedicated work with children afflicted with spina bifida.
Please give us the dates on which your group meets. If our schedules mesh, we would be more than pleased to come out and speak to you all.
Invitations to speak at club gatherings greatly help SEMA to get the word out to enthusiasts and hobbyists on the latest legislative, state, and federal proposals and laws that govern the use and operation of our vehicles. If your club or group is interested in having a SEMA representative speak to your members, like the WNY Mopars, please contact Conrad Wong at firstname.lastname@example.org.
December 2003/January 2004 SAN Club Events
January 2-4, Phoenix
35th Annual CarQuest World of Wheels
January 16-18, Lake Havasu City
Buses by the Bridge VIII
January 17-18, Phoenix
13th Annual Papago Military Vehicle Show
Sponsor: Arizona National Guard and Arizona Military Vehicle Collectors Club
January 23-24, Scottsdale
Russo and Steele Collector Automobiles
December 7, Costa Mesa
4th Annual Holiday Classic Car, Truck and Motorcycle Show
Sponsor: Orange County Market Place
December 7, Pomona
Pomona Car Show and Swap Meet at the Fairplex
Sponsor: George Cross and Sons
December 7, Yorba Linda
John Force Holiday Car Show benefiting ChiP's for Kids
Sponsor: John Force Race Station
December 8-9, Clear Creek
Run at Clear Creek
Sponsor: East Bay Hi-Tailers
December 13-14, California City
California City Play Day
Sponsor: Smitty's Desert Riders
January 10, Vista
17th Annual Burger Run
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA
January 16-18, Washington
47th Annual CarQuest World of Wheels
New Washington Convention Center (801 Mount Vernon Square, N.W.)
December 6, Dade City
Country Christmas Stroll & Classic Car Cruise-In
Sponsor: Downtown Dade City Main Street & Chamber
January 25, Lockport
27th Annual Swap Meet & Car Corral
Sponsor: AACA Illinois Region
January 17-20, Louisville
20th Annual Winter Swap Meet at the National Guard Armory
Sponsor: Falls City Model A Club
December 6-7, Timonium
14th Annual Street Cars of Desire Show at Timonium State Fairgrounds
Sponsor: Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
January 23-25, Baltimore
45th Annual World of Wheels
Baltimore Convention Center
December 5-7, Houston
44th Annual O'Reilly Auto Parts AutoRama
Sponsor: MillWinders, Inc.
December 7, Virginia Beach
31st Annual Joy Fund Car Show
Sponsor: Mustang Club of Tidewater