SEMA Action Network Recognizes the Texas Vehicle Club Council (TVCC)
Recently SEMA and the SEMA Action Network (SAN) awarded a certificate of appreciation to the Texas Vehicle Club Council (TVCC) in recognition of its role in defeating a strong effort to pass a scrappage (car crusher) law in Texas during the 1999 legislative session.
A serious threat to Texas automobile hobbyists and clubs, the bill the TVCC helped defeat (H.B. 1550) sought to authorize a car-crushing program and would have rolled back emissions inspections to include cars up to 35 years old. In other words, the bill would have not only potentially taken classic and helpful parts cars off the road, it would have unfairly required cars never outfitted with emissions equipment in the first place to undergo emissions tests.
TVCC's task was not easy. The sponsor of H.B. 1550, Rep. Warren Chisum (R-Carson), chairman of the Texas House Environmental Regulation Committee, sought to pass the bill out of his committee three separate times. Each time this happened, the TVCC, working with the SEMA Action Network, vaulted to action, packing hearing rooms with concerned hobbyists and inundating committee members with letters, e-mails and phone calls in opposition.
According to TVCC Chairman Troy Mennis, TVCC's ability to respond quickly and effectively each time the bill was considered was due to its membership being in "Special Alert Status," where TVCC essentially splits its membership up into a huge phone bank. Said Mennis, "Each time the bill was moving, TVCC Board members called individual car club representatives who would in turn call their membership to urge active opposition." Obviously, "Special Alert Status" worked like a charm.
SEMA Action Network Director Brian Caudill presented the certificate to the TVCC on behalf of SEMA and the SAN. Caudill noted, "We are pleased to recognize the tremendous efforts of the Texas Vehicle Club Council in defeating this bill. When we developed the SEMA Action Network concept we envisioned just this sort of partnership-SEMA and state car councils working in tandem to protect the rights of enthusiasts. We were proud to be a part of the effort."
1999: Reviewing the Year's SEMA Action Network (SAN) Activity
The work of safeguarding the vehicle hobbies from unfair regulations and legislation is often painstaking. But the rewards are great for both hobbyists car clubs and the supporting aftermarket industry. During 1999, SAN realized significant successes in the legislative and regulatory arenas underscoring the powerful grassroots activities of car clubs and enthusiasts across the country. The SEMA Action Network scored legislative and regulatory victories at the federal and state level on behalf of several different segments of the motor vehicle hobby. Following are a few of these successes, a very few setbacks and a forecast of what to expect in 2000.
Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE): Effective lobbying by the enthusiast community, as well as the automakers and auto parts industry, stopped an effort to raise CAFE standards for light trucks and sport utility vehicles. Had CAFE standards been raised from the current level of 20.7 miles per gallon, automobile manufacturers would have been forced to downsize, restrict the sale of popular features for, or limit production of light trucks and SUVs to meet higher fleet fuel mileage requirements. SEMA anticipates that, despite this victory, the U.S. Congress will revisit CAFE issues when it reconvenes this January.
Repair and Upgrade: Governor Gray Davis signed into law SEMA-sponsored legislation that will allow emissions "upgrades" in lieu of vehicle scrappage programs. The new law requires the California Air Resources Board (CARB) to assess the cost-effectiveness of aftermarket emissions upgrade equipment as compared to vehicle scrappage. The new law works with existing law requiring California to abandon scrappage programs where repair and upgrade can be shown to be more effective in reducing emissions than buying up older, often classic or special-interest, vehicles and crushing them into useless blocks of scrap metal.
Emissions Exemptions: Bills to prohibit roadside testing of vehicles exempted from California's SMOG program checks and exempt vehicles driven less than 5,000 miles from inspection failed in committee. In addition, a "tailpipe testing only" bill, designed to ease emission testing burdens on enthusiasts with aftermarket-equipped vehicles by limiting visual and functional testing, was withdrawn from consideration this year with the hope that it will receive more favorable consideration in the next legislative session. Each of these bills was introduced at the request of the state's hobbyist community including the Association of California Car Clubs (ACCC) and its affiliate members.
Parts Reuse: After more than a year of haggling with California car clubs, hobbyists and SEMA, CARB issued its final scrappage program plan. CARB's stated goal is to crush 150,000 vehicles a year for 10 years to meet emissions reduction targets. CARB will also not allow any reasonable parts recycling as a part of the program, despite the fact that California law (S.B. 501) specifically mandates that scrappage programs include recycling. Simply put, SEMA's position is that CARB's proposal clearly violates California law. The regulation will go before California's Office of Administrative Law to determine if the regulation contradicts the existing law.
Fenders: Governor M.J. "Mike" Foster Jr. signed into law a bill containing a SEMA-authored provision exempting from fender requirements vehicles that were not equipped with fenders at the time of manufacture. As a bonus to the Louisiana street rodding and customizing community, the new law also contains a SEMA amendment allowing fender flares as an alternative to traditional fenders, flaps or splash aprons to accommodate wheel/tire modifications and minimize spray.
Nitrous Oxide: Legislators ended their session without approving a bill that would have prohibited the use of "fuel power booster delivery systems," including nitrous oxide, on motor vehicles operated on state highways. The bill's sponsor accepted the assertion that the bill was written too broadly and not based on relevant safety data. The SEMA Action Network would like to recognize the hard work of the Nebraska Rod and Custom Association, The Eastern Nebraska/Western Iowa Car Club Council and the Rapid Transit System for their efforts in opposing the bill and educating legislators on the true nature of hot rodding. Note, however, that this bill is "carry-over" legislation and could be reconsidered when the Nebraska legislature reconvenes this January.
Raised Vehicles: After heavy lobbying by Oregon SAN clubs such as the Pacific Northwest Four Wheel Drive Association, GM Haulers, Brush Busters 4x4 Club, Peer Pressure Truck Club and the Burnouts and Road Angels car clubs, two bills that would have restricted vehicle bumper height were set aside when the legislative session concluded. One of the bills banned vehicles with bumpers elevated more than 3 inches over the original manufactured bumper clearance. The other prohibited any vehicle from having a bumper height exceeding 29 inches.
Pre-1981 Vehicles: Legislation that sought to prohibit the registration of certain older vehicles was killed. The bill proposed banning the registration of "totaled" vehicles manufactured before 1981 immediately and all pre-1981s beginning in the year 2010. The measure would have allowed the registration of these cars only if they qualified as antique or "special interest" vehicles or met unspecified emissions standards.
Scrappage: Legislation to implement a vehicle scrappage program died in committee when the legislature concluded its 1999 session. The bill also threatened to expand the state's emissions inspection program to include vehicles up to 35 model years old. Despite the sponsor's efforts, the measure was beaten back by a coalition of determined hobbyists and SEMA representatives. Because the legislature does not meet in consecutive years, the next possible opportunity for reintroduction of the bill is the year 2001 (see cover story).
Scrappage: Following an education campaign by Vermont hobbyists and SEMA staff, legislators declined to take action on a bill to implement a vehicle scrappage program and finance it with a pollution surcharge and a one-cent per gallon tax on diesel fuel. This bill is still alive for possible consideration next year.
Emissions Exemptions: In a procedural move that surprised and infuriated many long-time Virginia legislators, legislation that would have granted older vehicles an emissions exemption was sent back to committee for reconsideration. Having come on the last day of the legislative session, this action essentially killed the bill. Virginia vehicle hobbyists have vowed to pursue the emissions exemption in the next legislative session. SEMA anticipates working closely with SAN members such as the Southwest and Central Virginia Car Club Councils, the Antique Automobile Club of America, Virginia Automobile Protective Society and other Virginia car clubs to make sure that this idea finally becomes law.
Street Rods: Governor Gary Locke signed into law legislation to redefine a street rod to include vehicles manufactured after 1949 to resemble those manufactured before 1949. The new definition also encompasses vehicle bodies constructed of nonoriginal material or those altered dimensionally or in shape and appearance from the original manufactured body. A special thanks to the Washington Car Club Council (WCCC) for its efforts in getting this bill passed and to Representative Jack Cairnes (R-District 47) who introduced the bill on behalf of the WCCC.
Emissions Exemption: The legislature closed its session by killing legislation that would have delayed the start-up date for a hard-won emissions exemption for 25-year-old and older vehicles.
What's Ahead in 2000
Repair and Upgrade: SEMA will be working with regulatory officials to implement the voluntary "repair and upgrade" program to install emissions improvement equipment as an alternative to scrapping and crushing older cars. This program represents a breakthrough in our battles against scrappage and, when proven effective, will serve as a model for other states and a great hope for old car restorers and enthusiasts everywhere.
Scrappage: Illinois is poised to join the list of states proposing to scrap vehicles for emissions credits. The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) expects to formally issue a scrappage proposal in the near future. SEMA has been busy presenting to IEPA officials the case against scrappage and has offered voluntary emissions system repair and upgrade as an alternative. Illinois SAN clubs have done a fantastic job in fighting this proposed regulation. In particular, the SAN would like to mention the efforts of the Vintage Chevrolet Club-Central Illinois Region, Shelby Club of America-Northern Illinois Region, Northern Mustang Corral, Northern Illinois Fiero Enthusiasts, Illinois Bentley Drivers Club, Chicagoland Walter P. Chrysler and Buick Clubs, Northern Illinois Impala Club, Cruisin' Tigers GTO Club and the Pontiac-Oakland Club, and enthusiast Dale Workman.
Modified Performance: Due to the tenacity of the Council of Vehicle Association/Classic Vehicle Advocate Group and SEMA, the New Jersey Division of Motor Vehicles could finalize a proposal to create a new classification of vehicles. "Low Utilization Modified Performance Vehicles" of model years 1981 and later would be spared the rigors of the enhanced inspection program and would instead take a 2,500 rpm idle emission test. These vehicles could only be driven a total of 10,000 miles during a 2-year period.
Lighting: The new year could see the reemergence of legislation to prohibit the installation of any vehicle lamp or light unless approved by the commissioner of motor vehicles. SEMA has alerted concerned New York members of the SEMA Action Network to the situation. SEMA has also contacted the bill's sponsor and is attempting to persuade legislators that the bill, as introduced, is overly restrictive and likely violates federal regulations.
Open Letter to Illinois Hobbyists
November 11, 1999
Dear Illinois Hobbyist:
You may have seen a letter addressed to SEMA from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) that has invited our association to meet with the IEPA to discuss the feasibility of repair and upgrade programs as an alternative method of reducing vehicle emissions. We have agreed to meet with agency officials in the near future on this initiative. However, because the IEPA is unable to include a repair and upgrade alternative in its pending regulation, we will continue to oppose the proposed program to scrap older vehicles.
Contrary to what the IEPA letter suggests, the draft program does not address our fundamental issues with scrappage:
- This program will still allow "smokestack" industries to avoid reducing their own emissions by buying credits generated through destroying cars, exposing many neighborhoods to higher levels of pollutants.
- This program still holds the potential for enthusiasts to lose a valuable source of rare parts for vehicle restoration projects and could drive up the price of any available parts, now and in the future.
- This program still ignores the fact that lower income car owners cannot afford to purchase a new and cleaner vehicle with the money provided by scrappage programs.
- This program still ignores the fact that scrapping vehicles is not the most cost-effective method to reduce emissions.
We have appreciated the energy and enthusiasm that Illinois hobbyists have expended in this fight. You have responded at every turn to defend your hobby against unnecessary government intrusion. The letters you have generated from state legislators pressuring the IEPA to abandon scrappage are making an impact.
The agency has said that it will entertain the notion of including repair and upgrade in a supplementary regulation. We recognize this as a valuable step, but we will not rest until regulators in Illinois and in every other state in our country are aware that they cannot continue to protect big industry at the expense of car collectors and low-income drivers.
Again, thanks for your dedication.
Director, State Relations
Newly Introduced Legislation
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.
Ohio H.B. 482
This bill would require all used vehicles to pass the state I/M test prior to being sold; it would allow vehicles which are not I/M tested before the sale to be returned, and the cost of the vehicle refunded to the buyer, under the state's lemon law.
Pennsylvania H.B. 1999
Under current law, vehicles must pass an annual safety inspection. This bill would change the requirement to biennial instead.
Pennsylvania H.B. 2004
This bill would make it illegal to take parts from abandoned vehicles. It also would provide penalties for the abandonment and stripping of vehicles.