SEMA Action Network Continues to Score Legislative Victories for Automotive Hobbyists, Industry
Cooperative efforts of the automotive hobbyists and the aftermarket industry who participate in the SEMA Action Network (SAN) continue to result 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 seek overhaul of existing statutes and create brand-new programs to safeguard and expand upon the specialty equipment aftermarket. “The year 2004 brought a series of significant legislative and regulatory accomplishments for the industry and the vehicle enthusiast community on issues ranging from equipment standards to registration classifications to emissions-test exemptions to hobbyist rights,” said SEMA’s Vice President 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 2004 once again demonstrated the benefits of active industry involvement and the grass-roots potency of hobbyists across the country.”
Combined efforts of SEMA, the Specialty Equipment Market Association, and the SAN have successfully addressed a number of issues in 2004. They include:
Federal Scrappage Program: Congress is still debating the final details on legislation to update the nation’s highway law, but the SAN worked with lawmakers to ensure that the bill will preserve a long-standing prohibition against using highway funds to pay for state vehicle-scrappage programs.
Federal Tire-Pressure Monitoring Systems (TPMS): NHTSA issued a proposed rule requiring that new vehicles be equipped with tire-pressure monitoring systems capable of detecting when a tire is significantly under-inflated, beginning in late 2005. The TPMS would be required to function only with the original tires and rims. The SAN is working with NHTSA to make sure the new TPMS rule does not create roadblocks to sales of aftermarket wheels to hobbyists interested in customizing or upgrading their vehicles.
Forest Service Policy On OHVs: The SAN submitted comments on a U.S. Forest Service (USFS) proposal to manage off-highway vehicle (OHV) use within National Forest System lands. The rule would establish a system of roads, trails and areas designated for motor vehicle use and prohibit such use outside of the designated system. The SAN expressed support for broad national guidelines combined with local management decision-making. SAN urged strong public involvement and flexible timetables in the process of designating roads, trails and areas for motor vehicle use.
California Exhaust Noise: The end of August marked the one-year anniversary of California’s exhaust-noise testing program. The California Bureau of Automotive Repair reports that about 90% of the approximately 3,000 vehicles that have undergone the state’s exhaust-noise test have been certified to be in compliance with California law. The program is the result of a SAN-sponsored law that allows California hobbyists to prove their vehicles comply with state noise standards.
California Forests: The SAN supported proposals by the USFS for managing four national forests in Southern California that would open more backcountry trails to OHVs. The forests are Angeles, Cleveland, San Bernardino and Los Padres, covering 3.7 million acres from the U.S.-Mexico border to Big Sur. The plans would increase by about 2% the total backcountry acreage in the four forests zoned for motorized use, which is nearly 1.6 million acres. This would include some new trails to connect existing routes along with an informal network of roads in other areas.
Florida, Illinois, Missouri Bumper Heights: Florida and Missouri legislation to add new sections to the law relating to maximum bumper heights for motor vehicles died in the respective legislatures. The Illinois bill that prohibits operation of any vehicle, regardless of size, with a front bumper height that exceeds 28 inches or a rear bumper in excess of 30 inches was signed into law. The bill is consistent with the model legislation currently endorsed by the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA), which SEMA supports.
Hawaii Street Rods/Replicas: Hawaii Governor Linda Lingle signed into law a version of SAN-model legislation regarding street rods and replica vehicles. The new law expands the definition of "street rod vehicle" and "street rod replica vehicle" to include vehicles manufactured before 1968 or kit cars manufactured after 1967 to resemble vehicles manufactured before 1968. Previously, Hawaii allowed only vehicles manufactured prior to 1949 and replicas of these vehicles to be registered under these classes.
Illinois Inoperable Vehicles: The SAN defeated legislation that threatened to further restrict the ability of vehicle hobbyists to maintain inoperable vehicles on private property. The bill sought the removal of historic vehicles over 25 years of age from a list of vehicles exempt from county inoperable-vehicle ordinances if they are not kept within a building. Under current law, a county board may declare all inoperable vehicles a nuisance and order their disposal. This bill would have subjected ungaraged historic hobby cars to disposal and possible fines.
Kentucky Nitrous Oxide: Legislation died that threatened to ban motor vehicles equipped with nitrous-oxide systems unless all nitrous-oxide canisters had been removed from the vehicles. The SAN convinced the bill’s sponsor to simply require the disconnection of the nitrous line to the engine, but the sponsor then decided to withdraw the bill rather than pursue it in committee.
Kentucky Inoperable Vehicles: The SAN amended legislation that originally sought to prohibit the collection of junked, wrecked or inoperable motor vehicles on private property and permitted local governments to provide for their removal. Under the SAN amendment, all inoperable vehicles (including parts cars) stored on private property would be exempted from the law if these motor vehicles were stored out of ordinary public view. The amended bill was on the floor of the Kentucky House of Representatives when it died at the end of the session.
Massachusetts Aftermarket Exhaust Systems: The SAN again stalled substantive action on a bill to ban the sale or installation of “an exhaust system which has been modified in a manner which will amplify or increase the noise emitted by the exhaust.” It will need to be reintroduced in 2005 in order to receive further consideration by the Legislature. As in past years, the measure does not supply law enforcement with a clear standard to enforce, allowing law enforcement officers to make subjective judgments on whether or not a modified exhaust system is in violation.
Minnesota Racing: The SAN amended a Minnesota bill that, as originally drafted, would have outlawed motorsports events not sanctioned by a governmental entity and not taking place on a racetrack. If enacted in its original form, the bill would have banned traditionally legal activities such as road rallys, ice racing and autocross events. The bill’s sponsor was primarily concerned with illegal street racing on public roadways. Under the SAN amendment, events taking place on public roadways where vehicles do not exceed the speed limits would remain legal, as would authorized racing events that occur on public property. The bill, with the SAN amendment, died when the legislature adjourned without taking further action.
Minnesota Snorkels: SAN helped defeat legislation that would have prohibited the operation of an OHV on public land or public waters with an air-intake pipe or snorkel that is more than six inches above the manufacturer’s original air-intake pipe. The bill formally died when the Legislature adjourned for the year. The measure was introduced as a proposal for a study on the impact of OHVs on wetlands but was amended in committee to include the proposed ban on snorkel use.
Missouri Street Rods/Custom Vehicles, Emissions Exemption: The Missouri Legislature combined SAN-model legislation to create titling and registration classifications for street rods and custom vehicles with a SAN-supported bill to exempt all vehicles 26 years old and older from emissions inspections and passed both provisions. The state’s Governor signed the combined measure into law. The SAN-model legislation provides for special license plates and exempts rods and customs from periodic inspections and emissions tests. It also provides for the use of non-original materials and requires an initial safety inspection based on criteria established in part by the local hobbyist community. Under the legislation, replica vehicles are assigned the same model-year designation as the production vehicles they most closely resemble. The 26-year rolling emissions-test exemption will replace current law that exempts only vehicles manufactured prior to the 1971 model year.
New Hampshire Exhaust Noise: An amended version of a SAN-sponsored bill to remove vague and subjective provisions from the state’s exhaust-noise law became law without the governor’s signature. Under previous law, New Hampshire deemed illegal all modifications that increased noise levels above those emitted by the vehicle’s original muffler. The original SAN-drafted legislation required law enforcement authorities to prove that an exhaust system modification resulted in a noise level in excess of 95 decibels as measured by SAE test standard J1169 before issuing a citation. Deeming the 95-decibel limit too restrictive, the Legislature simply deleted provisions in the law which referenced the noise levels of the original muffler.
New Hampshire Emissions Inspections: SAN-supported legislation to exempt vehicles 20 years of age or older from the visual-inspection component of an emissions test was enacted into law in New Hampshire.
Rhode Island Exhaust Systems: SAN defeated Rhode Island legislation to classify as “defective” any exhaust system found to be in violation of the state’s noise limit. The measure also prescribed fines and replacement of the exhaust system. Given that statutory roadside exhaust noise tests are rarely if ever employed, SAN was concerned that this bill’s effect would have been to ban the sale of aftermarket exhaust systems of any kind.
Rhode Island Street Rod/Custom Vehicle Bill: Rhode Island enacted into law SAN-model legislation to create titling and registration classifications for street rods, custom vehicles, kit cars, replicas, etc. The SAN model defines a street rod as an altered vehicle manufactured before 1949 and a custom vehicle as an altered vehicle manufactured after 1948. The legislation exempts street rods and customs from periodic vehicle inspections and emissions inspections and a range of standard-equipment requirements. The measure also provides that a replica vehicle will be assigned the same model year designation as the production vehicle it most closely resembles and allows the use of non-original materials.
Tennessee Lighting: The SAN defeated a bill that would have prohibited motor-vehicle windshield wipers from having lights or reflectors. The SAN convinced legislators to oppose legislative initiatives that banned optional lighting equipment or accessories not related to a proven safety hazard.
Virginia Inoperable Vehicles: Virginia Governor Mark Warner signed into law SAN-sponsored legislation to significantly limit the ability of local areas to implement restrictive ordinances preventing automobile collectors from pursuing their hobby. Under the new law, at least two inoperable vehicles (or more, if a locality permits) being actively repaired or restored on private property would be exempted from any local ordinance if shielded or screened from public view. The measure defines “shielded or screened from view” as not visible by someone standing at ground level from outside of the property on which the inoperable vehicles are located.
Wilderness Areas in Washington & California: “Wilderness” designations have a far-reaching impact on the OHV industry and enthusiasts because motorized vehicles are denied access to lands designated as wilderness. The U.S. Congress makes the final determination on wilderness designations. While a number of bills to expand the nation’s wilderness areas were considered, few were enacted into law. Two of the more controversial measures to be defeated would have set aside about 100,000 acres of “Wild Sky Wilderness” in Washington’s Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest and 300,000 acres of federal lands across Northern California. In both instances, lawmakers could not agree on a SAN-supported mechanism to allow certain longstanding roads, buildings and structures within the wilderness area to continue in existence.
Rollin Up the Sleeves
As many of you know, Conrad Wong has departed SEMA. We all join in extending our best wishes to him in his new adventures.
My name is Jason Tolleson, and I have joined the team at SEMA’s Washington D.C. office as the new director of the SEMA Action Network (SAN) and editor of Driving Force. I look forward to this opportunity to build upon the many relationships established between Conrad and so many of you. With the help of enthusiasts and members alike, I hope to build upon the successes of the SAN to preserve and protect the rights of auto enthusiasts everywhere.
From my first car show at the age of 10 to rebuilding and refurbishing cars to put myself through college, I have always been drawn to the automotive and truck industry. I was raised on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii, and it seemed only fitting and proper to pull up to the beach in a 1977 Triumph Spitfire. While my journeys have temporarily taken me out of the garage and into the nation’s capitol, I can still vividly recall the numerous hours spent turning wrenches on countless cars and trucks.
Upon moving to Washington D.C., I began work as a legislative aide on Capitol Hill and, more recently, as a lobbyist representing local governments and transit agencies. It was in these positions that I developed a greater understanding of the legislative and regulatory arenas. In joining SEMA, I have the unique and exciting opportunity to merge my government-affairs experience with my life-long passion as an auto enthusiast.
I look forward to this opportunity to rolling up my sleeves and working alongside all of you. I welcome the opportunity to meet you at various auto shows, club meetings and other events in the upcoming months. Please feel free to contact me at (202) 783-6007 ext. 39 or at email@example.com with any questions or concerns that you may have.
SEMA/SAN to Seek Resolution to California Titling and Registration Dilemma
SEMA, on behalf of the SAN, announced that it is actively seeking to clarify the vehicle registration and titling process so that specialty vehicles—including street rods, kit cars and replicas—can become properly registered and titled in California.
California’s complex vehicle registration laws have created confusion among state hobbyists and those charged with applying these laws at the ground level. The result has been that certain classes of hobbyist vehicles, representing a small fraction of the 28 million registered vehicles in California, may be erroneously titled or registered.
“It is our sense that these vehicle owners are simply struggling with the registration process, which has little or nothing to do with avoiding applicable registration fees or other requirements,” said SEMA President and CEO Chris Kersting. “They are simply victims of what California DMV officials have aptly described as a 'muddy' registration process."SEMA/SAN has made efforts in California and around the country to simplify the process. The association has been active in pursuing model legislation to create titling and registration classifications for street rods, custom vehicles, kit cars, replicas, etc. to avert some of these issues and concerns. These cars are required to pay all appropriate taxes and registration fees as mandated by law. To date, the SAN-model legislation has been enacted in Missouri, Illinois and Rhode Island.
“We look forward to working with California state regulators, SAN members, and industry representatives, including members of SEMA’s Hot Rod Industry Alliance (HRIA), to achieve a satisfactory resolution to this titling and registration dilemma, be it through legislation or administrative remedies,” Kersting added.
Breaking News - Oregon Residents Reject Tillamook Forestry Plan
A ballot initiative to divide the Tillamook and Clatsop state forests 50/50 between commercial logging versus wildlife habitat and recreation was soundly defeated by Oregon voters. Working with SEMA, its membership, and off-road community contacts, the SAN had urged defeat of the measure. If the measure had passed, land use decisions would have been put in the hands of an independent restoration science team with complete discretion on land closure issues. Once decisions had been made, the plan would not be reviewed for another 20 years. The SAN and SEMA support rational land management decisions that balance the need for land protection and access. This initiative did not meet that threshold and would have jeopardized off-highway vehicle access to existing, well-maintained roads and trails, among other issues.
SEMA To Challenge New Motor Vehicle Lighting Rules
NHTSA Action Would Stop Customization with Enhanced Replacement Headlamp Systems
SEMA announced that it will formally challenge a recent final interpretation of federal lighting standards issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The association noted that it will avail itself of all options, up to and including filing a lawsuit in federal court.
The NHTSA final interpretation, issued in October of this year, indicates that the agency will now be treating as illegal, certain vehicle headlamp-replacement systems that had previously been deemed in full compliance with federal lighting standards and legal for highway use. The final NHTSA policy completes action on two draft letters of interpretation issued last year that proposed to prohibit replacement items that did not a) conform to federal standards in the same manner as the original equipment or b) use the same light sources as the original equipment.
Although opposed by SEMA, its allies and hobbyists around the country, NHTSA’s final letter of interpretation concluded that replacement headlamps must comply with all applicable photometry requirements using the same light source as the OEM equipment. This means that meeting the performance requirements of the standards no longer ensures that a headlamp system is in compliance with federal rules. For example, the new interpretation would prohibit replacing a halogen-based system with high intensity discharge (HID) headlamps that otherwise meet all requirements of the federal regulations.
“The new policy statement on headlamps changes dramatically the agency’s position,” said SEMA Vice President of Government Affairs Steve McDonald. “It is SEMA’s view that this new position runs contrary to long-standing precedent, is beyond authority as delegated by Congress and has implications as a new precedent that could affect equipment other than lighting. We are compelled to act on the behalf of hobbyists across the country to do all that is possible to overturn this new policy.”
SEMA indicated that the new interpretation effectively establishes an original equipment standard for headlamp light sources and holds that the original equipment light source type cannot be modified or otherwise altered by aftermarket manufacturers seeking to improve the lighting of a given vehicle.
“SEMA continues to stand for the right for hobbyists to responsibly accessorize, modify, and improve their vehicles with enhanced aftermarket lighting,” McDonald added. “Enhanced headlamp lighting systems improve safety aspects of the vehicle and can be fully compliant with all relevant Federal standards. SEMA vigorously opposes this ill-conceived interpretation of a long-standing regulation. We believe that NHTSA has gone too far, and is now actually preventing the improvement of vehicle lighting which benefits the motoring public.”
Attention Car Clubs, Event Organizers and Enthusiasts!
We’d like to know what’s going on with SEMA Action Network clubs and enthusiasts across the country; what charity events you’re involved in; when and where the rod runs, car shows, trail rides, rallies and tech meetings are held; and what legislative and regulatory issues concern club members and individual enthusiasts.
One of the best ways to keep us abreast of what’s going on and what’s important to the vehicle hobbies nationwide is for us to receive your club newsletters and updates. Please consider placing SEMA on your mailing list. Send correspondence to: Jason Tolleson, SEMA, 1317 F Street, N.W., Suite 500, Washington, D.C. 20004-1105. Or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hey, Thats My Car!
Thanks to all who have sent in or e-mailed us photos. Efforts to replenish our photo library and continue publishing an informative as well as visually appealing newsletter are going well. . .but we need more photos!
We need more antique/classic pictures, more restoration-process pictures, more hot-rod pictures, more junkyard pictures, more street-rod pictures, more sport-compact pictures and more lifted 4x4 pictures.
Please continue to send us photos of your trail rides, restorations in progress, rod runs, car shows, charity events and drag races.
Kindly submit pictures to: email@example.com. The next time we do a story focusing on your segment of the automobile hobby, we may even use your ride as the example.
DECEMBER 2004 SAN CLUB EVENTS
December 4, Tucson
Arizona Day at the Drags at Southwestern Intl Raceway
Information: firstname.lastname@example.org or 520/906-0185
December 5, Stockton
1st Annual Indoor/Outdoor Winter Classic Auto Swap Meet and Car Show
December 5, Pomona
Pomona Swap Meet
Sponsor: George Cross & Sons, Inc.
December 12, Long Beach
Hi-Performance Swap Meet and Car Show
December 19, Fontana
Fontana Automotive Swap Meet Show and Sell
Information: 909/820-9000 or www.americanheart.org
December 19, El Cajon
Annual Toys For Tots Event, San Diego Auto & Cycle Swap, Show & Sale
Sponsor: San Diego Auto Swap
Information: 858/484-9342 or www.sandiegoautoswap.com
December 4, Middleburg
Middleburg Annual Car Show
Sponsor: Jacksonville Rods and Customs
Information: 904/291-8315 or email@example.com
December 4, Fort Lauderdale
4th Annual Classic Car Show and Street Fair
Sponsor: SABA and Ft. Lauderdale Car Museum
December 12, Fanning Springs
Festival of Lights Classic Car Show
Sponsor: Tri-County Cruisers
December 12, Pensacola
Northwest Florida Car Show
Benefiting Communities Caringat Christmas
Information: 850/983-2208 or firstname.lastname@example.org
December 17, Palm Beach Gardens
Midnight Madness Last 1/4 Mile Test & Tune
December 19, Baltimore Highlands
Christmas Car Show & Breakfast
Sponsor: Street Survivors
December 3-5, Kansas City
KC Dream Classic Auction & Expo
Sponsor: Mecum Auctions
Information: www.mecumauction.com or 815/568-8888
December 4, Stayton
Santa Clause Toy Drive
December 19, Gresham
17th Annual Winter Cruise
Sponsor: International Portland-Vancouver Inliners
December 6, Addison
AER Annual Toy Drive and Car Expo
December 11-12, Belton
Texas Swap Meet Winternationals at the Belton Texas Dome
Information: email@example.com or 254/939-8548
December 18, W. Sabine
Old Glory Freedom Fest Car Show
Information: 903/693-6831 or
December 5, Virginia Beach
Joy Fund Car Show at Auto Zone
Sponsor: Mustang Club of Tidewater
December 5, Issaquah
XXX Jingle Bell Cruize