Tuning Into The Law
Sport-Compact/Tuner Enthusiasts Join in the Effort to Protect the Hobby
Lawmakers across the country continue to debate legislative proposals that impact the auto hobby, several of which are directly targeted at tuner or sport-compact vehicles. Dedicated to protecting all facets of the auto hobby, the SEMA Action Network (SAN) has been successful in enacting laws which allow individuals to reasonably and responsibly modify their vehicles. When needed, the SAN has also modified or defeated legislation that would unfairly restrict this right.
"While not completed, the 2005 legislative session has already brought a series of significant legislative and regulatory accomplishments for sport-compact enthusiasts on a range of equipment standards, from lighting to wheels and tires, modified exhaust systems to nitrous oxide," said SEMA's Vice President of Government Affairs Steve McDonald.
Among the bills being considered, those receiving the most attention concern the use of modified exhaust systems. Six states (Hawaii, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Virginia) have introduced legislation this year dealing with exhaust noise or the use of specialty-equipment exhaust systems. These measures come on the heels of the two-year anniversary of California's exhaust-noise testing program. Adopted in August 2003, the SAN-supported program established a 95-decibel limit under an objective testing procedure through which individuals can prove that their vehicles comply with state noise standards. In each instance this year where legislation was introduced that would restrict modified exhaust systems, the SAN was quick to contact the sponsor of the bill and offer the 95-decibel program as an alternative. The status of some of these bills is discussed in other sections of this newsletter.
Another issue receiving attention by lawmakers is the use of optional or ornamental lighting equipment on vehicles. Rang-ing from ground effect or "halo lights" to windshield wiper lights, the SAN has rallied behind legislation that allows individuals to use optional lighting so long as there is no proven safety hazard associated with the equipment. To that extent, the SAN-opposed legislation in New York and North Carolina that sought to ban certain forms of lighting equipment and supported bills in Arkansas and Maine that permitted the use of ornamental neon lights.
The SAN has also been successful in working with lawmakers regarding the permissible use of nitrous-oxide systems. In Arkansas, the SAN negotiated a compromise to legislation that originally threatened to prohibit all vehicles equipped with nitrous-oxide systems. In the modified legislation, the mere presence of nitrous systems on passenger cars or motorcycles does not constitute a violation. The system must simply be disconnected when a vehicle is being driven on a public road or the nitrous-oxide containers must be removed. Similar legislation in Maine allows for the use of nitrous-oxide systems so long as the canisters have been removed or if the vehicle is en route to or from a racetrack, car show, off-highway competition or a fill station.
In regards to racetracks, SAN members in New Hampshire and New Jersey have played a key role in opposing legislation in their states that would unreasonably restrict the hours of operation at these facilities. Generally, these bills represent an attempt by a small group of residents to silence racing without regard to the many racing enthusiasts in the state. These measures attempted to impose a statewide, one-size-fits-all approach to racetrack control, ignoring the significant recreational benefits these facilities provide.
Wheels-more specifically those known as "spinners"-have recently become an issue for lawmakers as well. In what could be the first step in limiting custom-wheel and hubcap options, Iowa, New York and Virginia each introduced legislation to restrict the use of spinner hubcaps. The proposed bill in New York would subject vehicle owners to fines of up to $750 for a third or subsequent violation. The SAN defeated the Iowa and Virginia proposals, arguing that spinners have no proven detrimental effect on motor vehicle safety and are not prohibited by Federal law. The New York bill remains pending in the legislature.
Tuners Talk Back
In the following paragraphs, enthusiasts from the sport-compact community address issues that impact their part of the hobby.
1. What do you think is the biggest misconception about the sport compact crowd?
That everyone who fixes up his/her car is involved in illegal street racing and that we are all involved in gangs. The biggest problem is ignorance.
-- Frank from Washington, D.C.
Club: District CRX
2. What are some ways sport-compact enthusiasts can get more people involved in the legislation that impacts the sport-compact hobby?
Exhaust and tinting are two very big issues that affect my car and my friends' cars. More information in magazines about new legislation and getting the word out about the SAN would be the best thing to get more sport-compact people involved in issues like these.
-- Mitchell from Galloway, NJ
Club: Unique Styling
3. It is often hard to get the younger generation interested and involved in government and politics. What do you think is the best way to get them involved in shaping the laws that impact their hobby?
I am 58 years old and have been working on my different rides for years. Modifying rides has been going on since the first car was made. Everyone, no matter who it is, likes to add personal ideas to their car. It is not only the younger generation but also my generation who should get involved. Having the SAN at shows like IAS helps a lot, but having rallies would help too.
-- Warren from Brooklyn, NY
Club: NYC Maximas
4. The SEMA Government Affairs Office has successfully introduced model legislation on exhaust noise in a number of states that sets an objective 95-decibel limit under a fair and reasonable test standard, allowing owners to prove that their modified exhaust systems comply with the law. Would you be interested in seeing this legislation introduced in your state?
Most, if not all of us, would love to see a clear and understandable law put into place. Setting up a 95-decibel program would do that. Here in Virginia, the law restricts any excessive noise. Please define any excessive noise. The 95-decibel program would allow us to prove that our exhausts comply with the law and not leave it up to law enforcement to decide who is too loud and who isn't.
-- Richie from Winchester, VA
[Editors Note: As the legislative spotlight is focused on the sport-compact community, it is worth noting that, in the last two months, over 400 new SAN members indicated that they owned sport-compact vehicles. This is a clear indication that tuner enthusiasts are beginning to understand that, by staying informed and actively engaging lawmakers on the issues, they too can make a difference.]
LEGISLATIVE QUICK HITS
Hawaii Exhaust Noise: At least for this year, the SAN defeated legislation in Hawaii that sought to provide a schedule of increased fines for those who violate the state's ban on the sale, installation and use of certain motor-vehicle mufflers. Current law in Hawaii essentially prohibits the operation of a motor vehicle unless it is equipped with an exhaust system of a type installed as standard factory equipment. SEMA is working to encourage the adoption of exhaust-noise standards that allow vehicle owners to prove compliance by an objectively measured, fair and predictable procedure. The Hawaii bill may be considered again next year.
Illinois Blue Dots: A SAN-supported bill to allow antique vehicles to display a blue light of up to one-inch diameter as part of the vehicle's rear stoplamps was recently passed by the Illinois Legislature and has been sent to the Governor for his approval. The measure recognizes that blue-dot taillights have no detrimental impact on safety, enables enthusiasts to modify their vehicles to recall in fine detail the glory days of the hot rod era in America and follows in the tradition of similar laws enacted recently in Minnesota, Montana, Missouri and Rhode Island.
Maine Lighting: SAN-supported legislation to permit accent lighting has been signed by Maine Governor John Baldacci. The new law permits the use of optional accent lighting on motor vehicles that meet certain conditions, including color and intensity restrictions. The new law also provides for undercarriage neon lighting, although not for use on public roadways, and allows blue-interior and dash lighting under some circumstances.
Maine Custom Vehicles: A version of SEMA-model legislation to create a registration class for custom vehicles was passed by the Maine Legislature. Under the bill, custom vehicles are defined as at least 30 years old and of a model year after 1948 or manufactured to resemble a vehicle from that era. The bill also allows customs to have a body constructed from non-original materials and assigns these vehicles the same model-year designation as the production vehicles they most closely resemble, allowing qualifying replicas and kit cars to be accommodated under this registration class. The measure requires the Chief of the State Police to convene a committee comprised of representatives from the custom vehicle industry to provide advice and technical assistance regarding potential inspection standards and procedures. The bill must now be approved by the governor before becoming law. The SAN is especially appreciative to Maine State Representative David Trahan for sponsoring the bill in the legislature and the Maine Custom Auto Association for its hard work and support.
Battle Lines Drawn as Congress Considers Reforming Endangered Species Act: Lawmakers from both parties are gearing up for a heated debate this summer on reforming the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Enacted in 1973, the law currently provides protection to 1,800 species and their surrounding habitat. While House and Senate leaders largely agree on the current problems with the ESA, there are vast differences in finding legislative solutions. For years, property owners and off-roaders have argued that the law allows the government to quickly list a species and designate the surrounding area off limits.
There have been several hearings in both the Senate and House. Senate Wildlife Subcommittee Chairman Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) recently stated that the hearings were a starting point in the process and that he would not want to do anything to damage or weaken existing law. This is in sharp contrast to his counterpart in the House of Representatives, Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo (R-CA). Chairman Pombo has allied with the Bush Administration, Western governors and several Western lawmakers, and is pushing for quick and drastic reforms to the ESA.
To support his claims for ESA reform, Chairman Pombo recently released a SAN-supported report prepared by committee staff that highlights problems associated with the 30-year-old law. The 84-page document calls for a legislative update to existing law, in which it claims that only 10 species have been recovered and that 60% of listed species have an uncertain or declining status. Environmental groups have countered that species recovery is a long-term goal and that many of the species in question were placed on the list only in the past 15 years.
New Rule Allows States to Challenge Current "Roadless Area" Designations: The Bush Administration issued a final rule allowing states to petition the U.S. Forest Service (USFS) to open areas previously closed under the Clinton Administration's so-called "roadless rule." The new rule establishes a process for considering state recommendations on which roadless areas should remain closed and which should be opened to logging, mining or other commercial ventures. The revision is consistent with the SAN's position that state government and local communities should participate in forest-management decisions. In its comments on the proposed rule, the SAN noted that the state petitioning process could be an opportunity to correct inaccurate roadless designations and include uninventoried routes well known to users and state officials but that do not appear on current USFS maps. Governors will have 18 months to submit their petitions. They may submit scientific data and updated mapping information to support their recommendations. The rule covers nearly 58.5 million acres of national forests and grasslands, mostly in Western states.
NOT SO FAST!
SAN Members in Illinois Put a Stop to Aftermarket Exhaust System Ban
Quick action by members of the SEMA Action Network (SAN) in Illinois stalled final action on legislation in the Illinois State Legislature that sought to ban vehicles equipped with a "muffler or exhaust system that clearly has been modified to amplify or increase the noise of the vehicle." The bill was rushed through the Illinois House in the final days of the session before being stopped by the SAN in the Senate. Illinois joined Massachusetts and Pennsylvania as states that have introduced aftermarket exhaust bans this year.
"Under the Illinois measure, vehicles determined to have been modified by virtue of a ‘visual observation' would have failed emissions inspection," said SEMA Vice President of Government Affairs Steve McDonald. "How emissions inspectors would have determined visually that an exhaust system increases noise was not explained in the bill." The SAN is already working with lawmakers to establish a 95-decibel limit for exhaust systems under a fair and objective testing procedure when the legislature convenes next year. Adopted by California in August 2003, the 95-decibel program has certified approximately 90% of tested vehicles to be in compliance with the law.
The SAN is appreciative to all those who responded to our call to action and contacted their lawmakers to request opposition to this bill. "The rapid and overwhelming response by vehicle enthusiasts in Illinois was critical to stopping this piece of legislation," said SAN Director Jason Tolleson. "Once the SAN was mobilized on this issue, it quickly became a force to be reckoned with."
HEY, THAT'S MY CAR!
1975 Pontiac Trans Am
Owner: Chris Williams
Sleepy Hollow, Illinois
I saw an ad for a 1975 Trans Am for $1,600. I called the owner and he said he just moved from California last week. He told me the car was rusty. As I
am originally from California, I knew what rusty meant to him. When I went to look at it, the car had a dented passenger quarter panel with surface rust. This was his idea of severely rusted. I bought the car and took it home and restored the body. The next year I restored the interior, then the engine. Every year my wife gives me $1,500 to put into the car to fix it up. After 13 years of doing a little bit at a time and with a lot of help from my friends Bob and Mike Flaningam, the car is awesome. It looks like a sleeper until I fire it up. The engine puts out 548hp and 588 lb-ft of torque on 93-octane pump gas.
Engine: 400 block bored .030 over with 455 crank
10:1 compression lightweight pistons
Edelbrock aluminum heads
Edelbrock Torquer 2 intake manifold
Comp Cams camshaft
Barry Grant Mighty Demon 850 carburetor
Tires: Firestone Indy 500 Firehawk, 275x60x15 rear; 255x60x15 front
Suspension: Hotchkis TVS; 2-inch drop in front, 1.5-inch drop in rear
Thanks to all who have sent in or e-mailed us photos. 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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
We Get Letters
I recently received a legislative action alert on the proposed restrictions to modified exhausts in Illinois. As a long-time member of the SAN, I appreciate the information provided through Driving Force and the action alerts. However, why was there such short notice on HB 2221? When I called my state representative, his staff mentioned that they were going to adjourn in just a few days.
-- Steve Thompson
We appreciate you taking the time to contact your representative about HB 2221. As introduced earlier in the year, the bill contained no reference to exhaust systems or exhaust noise. In the closing days of the legislative session, the bill was amended and rushed through the Illinois House of Representatives. The sponsor of this bill attempted to do this under the radar, leaving little opportunity for public input.
This is not the first time-nor will it be the last time-that we will see a situation like this. In the days and weeks before the legislature adjourns, there is a flurry of activity. We here at the SAN will get the information in your hands as quickly as possible; however, it is through the efforts of individuals like yourself, who will voice their opinion to elected officials, that we will be able to preserve and protect this hobby.
On The Road Again
We invite you to stop by and meet with Jason Tolleson, director of the SEMA Action Network, at these events in July:
Star City Motor Madness
Syracuse, New York
July 1-3, Fontana
Sponsor: Shelby American Automobile Club
July 12-16, Burbank
Hooray for Hollywood, 36th Annual National Meet
Sponsor: WPC Club Inc.
July 29, Rancho Cordova
Vintage Friday Car Show
Sponsor: Gold Country Cruisers
July 16-19, Salida
Rocky Mountain Rendezvous
Sponsor: Scout and International Motor Truck Association
Information: www.rmihr.org or 303/838-8505
July 10, Guilford
13th Annual Corvette Show and Swap
Sponsor: Club Corvette of Connecticut
Information: www.clubcorvettect.com or 203/481-9439
July 17, Union Gove
CGH Drag Day/Car Show
Sponsor: Chicago Gearheads
July 1-3, Des Moines
14th Heartland Nationals
Information: www.good-guys.com or 925/838-9876
July 30, Pasadena
Brits by the Bay Car Show and Flea Market
Sponsor: Triumphs Around the Chesapeake
Information; www.tracltd.org or 410/679-6421
July 1-4, Worcester
15th Annual New England Summer Nationals
July 30, Billerica
Sponsor: Bearing Burners Car Club
July 29-31, Birch Run
Great Lakes Fiero Festival
Sponsor: Michigan Fiero Club
Information: email@example.com or 517/543-6002
July 4, Eagan
3rd Annual Eagan Car Show
Sponsor: Rebel Rods
July 8-10, Duluth
33rd North Shore Rod Run
Sponsor: Vintage Times Car Club
Information: firstname.lastname@example.org or 715/392-4142
July 9, Carlton
Black Bear Casino 9th Annual Car Show
Sponsor: Nifty 50 Cruisers Car Club
July 15-16, St. Cloud
2nd Annual Bad Boyz Car Show
Sponsor: Bad Boyz, Inc.
Information: email@example.com or 320/259-4043
July 1, St. Louis
Sponsor: Gateway GTO Association of St. Louis
July 4, Kalispell
Sponsor: Rocky Mountain Street Machines
Information: firstname.lastname@example.org or 406/892-5573
July 16-17, Flanders
All Air-cooled VW Car Show, Car Corral & Swap Meet
Sponsor: Central Jersey Volkswagen Society
Information: www.anallaircooledgathering.com or 908/496-4985
July 23, Fernley
Sponsor: Classic Chevys of Reno
Information: www.classicchevyclubreno.com or 775/358-3673
July 24, Contoocook
4th Annual Deep Woods Extreme, Inc.
4WD Truck Show
Sponsor: Deep Woods Extreme, Inc.
July 10, Greece
2005 Annual Show-n-Shine Picnic
Sponsor: Street Machines of Rochester
Information: 585/225-4324 or 585/663-0393
July 15-17, Syracuse
Sponsor: Right Coast Association
Information: www.rightcoastcars.com or 800/753-3978
July 31, Rochester
45th Annual Outdoor Car Show
Sponsor: Genesee Valley Antique Car Society
Information: www.gvacs.com or 585/266-7830
July 1-3, Waynesville
38th Annual Auto Show, Flea Market and
Sponsor: Mountaineer Antique Auto Club
Information: email@example.com or 828/245-7587
July 4, Xenia
40th Anniversary Car Show and Swap Meet
Sponsor: Greene County Antique & Classic Car Club
Information: firstname.lastname@example.org or 937/372-3405
July 8-10, Columbus
8th Goodguys Nationals
Information: www.good-guys.com or 925/838-9876
July 20-24, West Chester
31st Annual CCI/WCC International Convention
Information: email@example.com or 321/385-9703
July 23, Delaware
2005 Blast from the Past
Sponsor: Vintage Auto Club of Delaware, Ohio
Information: 740/363-3545 or 740/363-4350
July 23, Troy
1st Annual 4X4 Offroad Challenge
Sponsor: Fletcher Fire Dept.
Information: 937/875-0001 or 937/606-0114
July 24, Sandy
Kiwanis 48th Annual Fly-In Cruise-In
Sponsor: Over the Hill Gang
July 8-10, Carlisle
Carlisle All Chrysler Nationals
Information: 717/ 43-7855
July 17, S. Abington Township
34th Scranton Region Antique Auto Show
Sponsor: Scranton Region AACA
July 24, Leesport
Car Show and NSRA Appreciation Day
Information: firstname.lastname@example.org or 610/926-5418
July 12-16, Greenville
33rd Annual POCI Convention
Sponsor: Pontiac-Oakland Club International, Palmetto Chapter
Information: www.poci.org or email@example.com
July 3-4, Roanoke
4th Annual Star City Motor Madness
July 13-17, Seattle
Sponsor: Oldsmobile Club of America, Puget Sound Chapter
Information: http://2005.oldsnationals.com/ or www.pugetsoundoldsclub.org
July 15-17, Puyallup
18th Pacific Northwest Nationals
Information: www.good-guys.com or 925/838-9876
July 2, Grafton
15th Annual Rods-n-Relics Car Show
July 8-10, Iola
Iola Old Car Show and Swap Meet
Sponsor: Oldsmobile Club of Wisconsin
July 15-17, Milwaukee
1st Milwaukee Nationals
Sponsor: National Street Rod Association
Information: www.nsra-usa.com or 901/452-4030
July 20-23, Oconomowoc
National Antique Oldsmobile Club Annual Meet
Sponsor: National Antique Oldsmobile Club
Information: www.antiqueolds.com or 262/781-1425
July 29-31, Milwaukee
Round Up 26
Sponsor: Cosworth Vega Owners Association
Information: firstname.lastname@example.org or 262/679-0550
Check out these early August 2005 events
August 4-7, Reno
40th Annual Reno Classic Car and
Parts Swap Meet
Information: www.renoswapmeet.com or 916/933-0949
August 6, Columbus
Neo-Fest Custom Compact Nationals
Sponsor: Classic Events
Information: www.classicevents.com or 614/268-1181
Newly Introduced Legislation
Note: The following state bills are not laws. They were recently introduced and are currently under consideration by the respective state legislatures:
Nevada ACR 29: Designates May 9, 2005 as Vintage Car Day at the Nevada Legislature.
New York AB 8130: Requires that all motor vehicles sold in the state of New York must be equipped with vehicle electronic data recorders.
New York AB 8306: Prohibits the use of video displays within the view of the driver of a vehicle, not including GPS or navigation systems.
New York AB 8521: Prohibits the use and sale of any substance used to cover a license plate in order to avoid law enforcement.
New York AB 8260: Prohibits window tinting with a light transmittance of less than 70% in sport-utility vehicles. Also deletes existing law that allowed tinting on rear windows with less than 70% light transmittance.