February 2003

Michigan Insurance Bill Passes
After a year of legislative wrangling, a bill that would substantially reduce fees charged to historic car owners by the Catastrophic Claims Association was signed into law in Michigan. The Michigan bill reduces the premiums charged by the association for historic vehicles by 80 percent. The SEMA Action Network partnered with SEMA member-company Hagerty Insurance and its thousands of Michigan customers to lobby in support of the bill.
The association's fees, which are currently charged to all Michigan auto policyholders in equal amounts, enable the state to reimburse no-fault automobile insurers for amounts paid on personal injury claims in excess of $250,000. However, these fees have made it significantly more expensive to maintain cars of historical value in Michigan than in any other state.
"Historic vehicles are by statutory definition maintained primarily for use in car club activities, exhibitions and parades and are rarely driven at all during hazardous winter driving months," said SEMA Government Affairs Director Steve McDonald. "This new law gives appropriate relief from an assessment that has been disproportionately applied to historic car owners whose vehicles are insured under policies that limit use and require the vehicles to be stored in a locked garage."
For years this assessment has been paid by Michigan owners of historic vehicles who likely will never take advantage of the protections the association provides through this funding.
"We at Hagerty Insurance believe it's ironic that this assessment has been levied in full on collectors of historical vehicles, especially in the state where the American auto industry got its start and remains rooted today," said Hagerty Insurance President McKeel Hagerty. "We are gratified that the Michigan Legislature saw fit to bring some degree of fairness to the methods by which these taxes are assessed and we applaud Governor Engler for signing the bill into law."
Legislative Deja Vu: Massachusetts Bill To Ban Aftermarket Exhaust Systems Reappears
Last year, a coalition of Massachusetts SEMA Action Network car clubs, individual enthusiasts, custom exhaust manufacturers and vehicle supply companies helped successfully kill Massachusetts legislation that sought to prohibit 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."
Unfortunately, that bill's sponsor introduced identical draft legislation, H.D. 1882, for consideration in 2003.
The problems with this legislation remain: Should H.D. 1882 become law hobbyists will be effectively prevented from replacing factory exhaust systems with better performing, more durable and stylish equipment. Worse still, H.D. 1882 would not provide Massachusetts police with a clear enforcement standard, allowing them to make purely subjective judgments about whether a custom exhaust is legal or not.
SEMA hopes that the same coalition of clubs that knocked down this legislation last year will be equally successful this year. This coalition includes SAN clubs like the Bearing Burners, Massachusetts Cruisers Auto Club, Ty-Rods, Massachusetts Association of Automobile Clubs, Spindles Auto Club of Weymouth, Dominators Car Club, Massachusetts Cruisers Club and the Bay State Classic Chevy Club. With their help, custom exhaust systems will remain a legal option for Massachusetts hobbyists.
Oh, Canada!
Ontario "Street Racing" Legislation Overreaches
The Ontario, Canada, Ministry of Transportation introduced legislation (Bill 241) that would ban certain automotive parts, substances and equipment that the Ministry claims are used in street racing. The bill is primarily directed at equipment that boosts engine performance, most notably nitrous oxide.
Under the measure, regulations would be issued prescribing specific substances, parts and equipment covered under the ban. The regulations would also designate certain classes of persons or vehicles as exempt from the law and regulations. The bill provision of specific concern reads: "No person shall drive or permit to be driven on a highway a motor vehicle with a prescribed part containing a prescribed substance or equipped with prescribed equipment in prescribed circumstances."
The biggest concern is that this language is purposely vague and could consequently result in the ban or limitation of a range of speed equipment. If signed into law as currently drafted, this language would allow Ontario authorities to write regulations not only for nitrous oxide equipment, but also for other "prescribed equipment" vaguely related to street racing.
Hobbyists are already familiar with this type of poorly drafted legislation. Recent Nebraska legislation intending to eliminate nitrous oxide equipment was written so broadly that it could have also eliminated any product that boosted horsepower (superchargers, turbochargers, etc.). SEMA was successful in negotiating favorable compromise language to the Nebraska bill that only requires nitrous lines to be disconnected when a vehicle is operated on public highways. Our language also ensures that other power booster equipment remains legal.
Ontario's Legislative Assembly reconvenes in mid-March at which time the bill will be considered. SEMA will work directly with the Ontario Transportation Ministry and the Ontario legislature to kill or mitigate this provision. We are also working with Canadian aftermarket associations to coordinate opposition and will rely on our growing Canadian SEMA Action Network presence, Canadian SEMA members and related U.S. companies to apply grassroots pressure as necessary.
Roadless Rule Update
Off-highway vehicle (OHV) hobbyists and related businesses should note that an appeals court has reversed a federal judge's decision to suspend the Clinton Administration's ban on road building in 58.5 million acres of Forest Service land, while the court determines the rule's legality. An Idaho judge originally ruled that the Roadless Rule would likely be overturned because the Clinton Administration had not provided sufficient opportunity for public comment and had violated environmental laws. The appeals court disagreed with this conclusion. This means the Roadless Rule potentially remains in effect while the Idaho court rules on the merits of the case. 
"This is a battle which is simultaneously being waged on several different fronts so it may be confusing for the outside observer to keep track of its status," noted Brian Caudill, SEMA Action Network director. "The rule is subject to change by the courts, Congress and regulators. It will be months and possibly years before the issue is resolved."
The Idaho case has garnered the most attention but seven other lawsuits have been filed around the country. Cases in North Dakota and Wyoming are in trial while the other lawsuits are on hold pending an outcome in the Idaho case. In the latter instance, the Idaho judge has asked the entire appeals court to review the reversal decision that was issued by three members of the appeals court. If the full appeals court stands by its ruling, the Idaho court will have to rule on the merits of the case and the Roadless Rule will remain in effect.
Meanwhile, legislation introduced last Congress to enact the Roadless Rule into law has died. Similar legislation will likely be reintroduced this Congress and, while it might garner attention, the legislation would be difficult to pass even in a Republican-controlled Congress.
Finally, the U.S. Forest Service has been contacting conservation, recreation and industry groups to help draft mutually acceptable administrative changes to the rule.  The Forest Service is expected to pursue this option in 2003. Any rule changes could effectively nullify the lawsuits.  SEMA generally opposes the Roadless Rule because it unfairly locks OHV hobbyists out of public land.
Anti-SUV Rhetoric Takes an Odd Turn
Perhaps you've seen the newspaper stories or the television commercials. Two new media campaigns are taking unique aim at one of America's favorite vehicles, the SUV.
The first campaign, sponsored by the Evangelical Environmental Network (EEN), asks the trenchant question, "What Would Jesus Drive?" Their basic message appears to be a version of the old environmentalist saw that SUVs use too much gas and produce too much pollution, only with a religious twist: When you make a choice to purchase a vehicle, you are also making a moral choice.
The next campaign, called the Detroit Project, has a uniquely political flavor. This media crusade currently suggests to American consumers (and politicians), through a series of slick television ads, that people who buy SUVs are supporting terrorism. Their simplistic A+B=C style reasoning goes as follows: SUVs use too much gas. The money for this gas goes to countries that support terrorism. Therefore, Americans that drive SUVs support terrorism. The television ads are particularly chilling. At least one of them portrays average everyday Americans making statements like "I gave money to a terrorist training camp in a foreign country."
In the interest of full disclosure, SEMA supports the American right to own a vehicle that suits the buyer's needs and desires, whether that is related to performance, fuel economy, safety, styling or other factors. We do not exclude SUVs from this social/consumer equation. This said, SEMA also supports the freedoms of religion, speech and expression. The EEN and the Detroit Project exercise these particular rights fully at their respective Web sites http://whatwouldjesusdrive.org and www.detroitproject.com.
Newly Introduced Legislation
Note:  The following state bills are not laws.  They have been recently introduced and are currently being considered by the respective state legislatures:
Driver Distraction
Texas HB 281 - relates to using telephones while operating a motor vehicle.
Wyoming HB 59 - would prohibit the use of mobile communications devices while driving.
Florida SB 88 - would allow certain energy saving vehicles to be drive in high occupancy vehicle lanes.
New Hampshire LSR 349 - relates to reducing certain emissions.
New Hampshire LSR 617 -  relates to emission control equipment.
Indiana SB 6  - would makes it a misdemeanor to install a defective air bag or another object that does not comply with federal safety regulations for the make, model, and year of the motor vehicles.
Massachusetts HB 1882  - would prohibit the use of mufflers that increase or amplify sound.
Michigan HB 261 - would mandate that headlights be used during precipitation.
Mississippi  HB 261 - would require headlights to be on during precipitation.
New Hampshire LSR 860 - relates to the prohibition of certain automatic door locks.
New York HB 100 - would require every motor vehicle registered in the state which is manufactured after a certain date and operated on highways to be equipped with a full sized spare tire.
Michigan HB 190 - would repeal certain aspects of the current vehicles inspection law.
Missouri SB 54 - relates to biennial vehicle inspections.
New Jersey SB 2186 - would enhance penalties for drag racing to $500 and loss of license for 30 days for the first offense and $1000 and loss of license for 180 days for the second offense.
New Jersey AB 3103 - would enhance penalties for drag racing to $500 and loss of license for 30 days for the first offense and $1000 and loss of license for 180 days for the second offense.
New Hampshire LSR 469 - would prohibit the use of speed traps.
Tags, Title and Registration
Michigan HB 9  - would prohibit any motor vehicle for which a salvage title has been issued from being operated on the highways, with some explicit exceptions to the rule.
Mississippi HB 18 - would authorize a special tag to be issued for replica motor vehicles.
Utah HB 7 - would allow special group license plates for: unique vehicles, collectable vehicles, special interest vehicles, vintage vehicles, etc.
Virginia HB 393 - would require that all salvage vehicles that are repaired or rebuilt for over the road use have titles permanently branded as "rebuilt."
Virginia HB 1659 - would change the definition of "rebuilt vehicle."
Virginia  HB 1521 - would amend laws relating to salvage vehicles, branding of titles of repaired vehicles or rebuilt vehicles as salvage vehicles. Adds, among other items, a definition for "repaired vehicle."

SAN Events
Feb. 15, St. Charles
Sweethearts Dance
Sponsor: American Roadhouse Car Club
Information: 636/947-9508
Feb. 22-23, Medford
26th Annual West Coast Charity Benefit Rod and
Custom Show
Sponsor: Rogue Valley Street Rods
Information: 541/944-2096
March 2, Jackson
38th Annual Greater Milwaukee Swap Meet
Sponsor: Model A Ford Club of America, Milwaukee Region
Information: 262/255-4525
March 8, Wisconsin Dells
Holiday Party and Auction
Sponsor: Oldsmobile Club of Wisconsin
Information: 262/886-9806