SEMA, California Hobbyists Save Emissions Exemption
After consulting with SEMA, California State Sen. Dean Florez (D-Fresno) has modified legislation (S.B. 708) that originally threatened to repeal the state's current rolling emissions test exemption for motor vehicles 30 years old and older. The bill sought to revoke the pro-hobbyist exemption and replace it with an exemption for vehicles 45 or more model years old commencing Jan. 1, 2005. The bill will be replaced by a SEMA-drafted alternative that beefs up existing California law prohibiting the operation of smoking motor vehicles.
"California officials continue to develop strategies to address failed efforts to meet air quality goals. Old cars are often targeted as convenient scapegoats," said SEMA Government Affairs Director Steve McDonald. "Over time Sen. Florez became convinced that the antique and classic vehicles that benefit from the
current emissions exemption are overwhelmingly well-maintained and infrequently driven. Forcing these vehicles back into the Smog Check program represented flawed environmental policy and created no real benefit to the quality of the air breathed by state residents. We are thrilled that Sen. Florez ultimately agreed with our assessment."
When finalized, the alternative bill will likely increase fines and force smoking vehicles already required to participate in the Smog Check program into an out-of-cycle emissions test. This legislation also directs qualifying persons to the state’s Smog Check Consumer Assistance Program, which offers financial repair and/or emissions system upgrade assistance of up to $500 for certain low-income citizens whose vehicles failed Smog Check. Exempted vehicles that are cited as violators, including those 30 years old and older, would have to demonstrate to authorities that the vehicle no longer violates the smoking vehicle provision of the law, but would not be brought back into the Smog Check program.
"This alternative will result in real, verifiable emissions reductions that not only help eliminate a significant source of pollution but also does so without harm to consumers and hobbyists alike," said SEMA Technical Consultant Frank Bohanan. "The repair assistance provisions will likely reduce consumers’ operating costs in addition to helping clear the air."
In seeking this alternative, Sen. Florez acknowledged the thousands of phone calls and letters opposing his original bill that came from California vehicle hobbyist and related industry members. "California SEMA Action Network (SAN) car clubs and individual hobbyists did outstanding work in opposing the original S.B. 708. Within minutes after sending our legislative alerts, the phone calls, faxes and e-mail began pouring into Sacramento," noted SAN Director Brian Caudill. "California hobbyists provided the passion and the horsepower which enabled SEMA to make our arguments to Sen. Florez. This is exactly how our enthusiast-industry partnership is supposed to work."
Legislative Quick Hits
California Whistle Tips: SEMA successfully amended legislation that would repeal the law that allows aftermarket exhaust systems that meet a 95-decibel limit. The amended bill will only prohibit whistle tips attached to exhaust outlets that are solely designed to create a shrieking sound. The Assembly Transportation Committee passed the bill, which will have no impact on the Bureau of Automotive Repair’s exhaust noise testing program.
California Inoperable Vehicles: The California Assembly introduced a bill that exempts vehicles, which have a DMV "certification of nonoperation," from city and county public nuisance ordinances. The vehicle will have to be legally stored or parked on private property and not readily visible from the street.
Nebraska Kit Car/Street Rod Bill: The Nebraska legislature passed SEMA-supported legislation to provide for the titling and registration of kit cars, home-built vehicles and street rods. Previously, registration classifications did not adequately provide for these vehicles.
Oregon Lighting Bill: SEMA amended an Oregon lighting bill to allow for aftermarket styling alternatives for auxiliary and passing lights. SEMA also successfully removed a provision requiring added restrictions for brake lights that disallowed original design changes and added a provision to allow lens covers when certain lamps are not required to be in operation.
Texas Inoperable Vehicles: The Texas legislature introduced two bills that may further restrict Texas vehicle hobbyists from maintaining inoperable vehicles on private property. The first bill allows municipalities to enforce land-use regulations that would affect vehicle storage and parking. The second allows
municipalities and counties to adopt ordinances that impose additional requirements on junked vehicles. Currently, Texas law defines junked vehicles as those vehicles on private property with an expired license or an invalid inspection certificate and have been inoperable for more than 30 days.
Congress, NHTSA Discuss Vehicle Compatibility, SUV Safety Issues
The topic of a recent hearing before the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee was how to make cars and trucks more compatible on the nation’s highways. Dr. Jeffrey Runge, chief of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), and representatives for auto manufacturers, the insurance industry and consumer groups agreed that there’s a need for certain improvements. In particular, these improvements include installing more head-protecting air bags and better seat belts in all vehicles.
Congress appears to be willing to let the industry identify voluntary solutions before it considers imposing mandates. The automakers and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety pledged to diligently pursue voluntary safety improvements. Ensuring that bumpers and side door reinforcements for cars, SUVs and pickup trucks match better is one focus of attention. Reducing the stiffness in some truck frames is also under consideration along with reducing the rollover propensity for certain SUVs. Design changes are expected to happen incrementally and may first appear as early as model year 2005.
"SEMA agrees with Dr. Runge's conclusion that a voluntary approach will achieve positive results quicker than government imposed regulations," said SEMA Director of Government and Public Affairs Brian Caudill. "The manufacturers who design and build these products are in a better position to rapidly respond to safety issues."
Once the interested parties agree on the changes, NHTSA may decide to transform voluntary measures into permanent regulations that apply to all automakers. SEMA will monitor any new rulemakings.
CA Exhaust Noise Testing Program Slated to Begin July 1
The California Bureau of Automotive Repair (BAR) begins operating the exhaust noise-testing program in July 2003. The program is the result of a SEMA-sponsored law that requires smog check referee stations to perform exhaust noise testing. The law as it stands now took months of negotiation between California legislators, regulators and SEMA.
California referee stations will issue compliance certificates for vehicles when exhaust system tests demonstrate they emit no more than 95 decibels. Only those owners who have received exhaust noise citations must submit their vehicles for testing. The law also allows courts to dismiss citations for systems
that passed the test and received a certificate of compliance.
SEMA is working with BAR to publicize the program and will publish a list of testing sites and other critical details as information becomes available.
Off Highway Vehicle News
The Bad News:
Stakeholders Express Support for Clinton Roadless Rule
A group called the Forest Roads Working Group (FRWG), comprised of a few conservation, hunting, timber industry and recreation interests, recommended implementation of the Clinton-era Roadless Rule, placing 58.5 million acres of national forest land off-limits to road-building and to off-highway vehiclerecreation. The regulation is currently on hold pending the outcome of several lawsuits. The Bush administration, meanwhile, is considering its own version of the rule, but any proposed changes are not expected until this summer at the earliest.
The U.S. Forest Service is contacting various interested parties to develop a consensus on roadless policies. The FRWG recommended several modest changes but also suggested that the current rule play out unchanged for a few years to better identify any flaws that need correction.
Clark Collins, executive director of the off-highway vehicle advocacy group BlueRibbon Coalition, expressed disappointment that the FRWG did not take into account the needs and desires of off-roaders or understand the value in motorized recreation. "We definitely have a problem with their desire to implement the rule and then have us all hope that by participating in a collaborative process afterwards that our interests will receive some consideration," said Collins. "There's legal off-highway vehicle recreation taking
place in those roadless areas. For them to totally ignore off-highway-vehicle recreation as a value worth protecting in roadless areas is a basic flaw in their recommendation."
Anti-OHV Access Bills: Creating Lots Of Wilderness A Little At A Time
Legislation to designate as wilderness areas another 2.5 million acres of public land in 77 different locations across California died in the last Congress. Another bill designating 57,000 acres of California coastal areas became law in 2002. The lesson anti-access lawmakers appear to have learned is to take the piecemeal approach: Turn federal lands into wilderness areas a little at a time.
These bills are a threat to the OHV enthusiast and business communities because motorized vehicles are denied access to lands designated as wilderness. Fourteen million acres of land in California already have
the wilderness designation.
Last year's law, the "Big Sur Wilderness and Conservation Act," added more acreage to the existing Ventana, Silver Peak or Pinnacles Wilderness areas. Now, Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA) and Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) have targeted an additional 304,000 acres of California federal lands and 21 river miles in Humboldt, Del Norte, Mendocino, Lake, Napa and Yolo counties for action in this Congress. The bills (HR 1501; S 738) were referred to the respective Resources Committees in the House and Senate.
"Last year, we were able to take a critical first step by protecting California wilderness in Big Sur and Monterey," said Sen. Boxer. "This year, we have an opportunity to build on our progress."
"Lawmakers haven't gotten the message yet that the off-highway vehicle hobby is also environment friendly and a contributing part of the nation’s economy," countered Brian Caudill, SEMA Action Network Director. "The wilderness designation is a clumsy tool to protect lands because it automatically assumes that any motorized activity is negative. We need to educate our friends in Congress."
Rep. Hilda Solis (D-CA) and Sen. Boxer are also expected to introduce similar legislation to designate additional wilderness acreage in Southern California.
... and the Northern Rockies
Rep. Christopher Shays (D-CT) introduced the "Northern Rockies Ecosystem Protection Act" (HR 1105) to designate as wilderness large tracts of land in Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington and Wyoming. The bill has more than 100 cosponsors, very few from the American West, and would allocate more than 15 million acres of land as wilderness. A House Committee awaits the Agriculture and Interior departments to comment on the merits of the bill.
... and Utah
Finally, the U.S. Senate has the "America's Red Rock Wilderness Act" (S 639) to vote on. This legislation seeks to designate as wilderness 9.1 million acres of Utah land, mostly red rock canyons and rock formations in southern portions of the state. Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL), whose home state is more than 1,000 miles from Utah, introduced this legislation. S. 639 is with the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.
The Good News:
Interior Department to Limit Wilderness Lands
The Department of the Interior intends to refer to a 1991 Bureau of Land Management (BLM) inventory of potential wilderness areas rather than a more generous 1996 inventory conducted by the Clinton Administration. This action would exclude from consideration millions of additional BLM acres beyond the 23 million acres identified in 1991 (unless Congress specifically directs the government to protect more land). Utah implemented the new policy after a court settlement agreement with the Interior Department that will exclude up to 3 million acres of BLM land identified in 1996 as potential wilderness.
In a separate action the Interior Department also established procedures making it easier for Utah officials to claim rights of way on thousands of dirt roads that run across federal lands, most of which were created between 1866 and 1976, when federal mining law encouraged western settlement.
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:
Colorado H.B. 1340-would authorize the air quality control commission to revise vehicle emissions budgets by using the latest federal mobile emissions guidelines.
Maryland S.B. 260-would exempt qualified hybrid vehicles that get at least 50 miles per gallon from vehicle emissions and inspection requirements.
New York A.B. 7474-would permit clean low emissions vehicles to use HOV lanes at any time.
North Carolina S.B. 763-would establish vehicle emissions compliance standards equivalent to California’s low emissions vehicle program.
North Carolina S.B. 863-would create a state climate action registry to monitor greenhouse gas emissions and suggest plans for reducing them.
Equipment and Inspections
Connecticut H.B. 5145-would increase the fine for the sale, installation or use of exhausts systems that create excessive, unusual or unnecessary noise to $150.
Louisiana S.B. 854-would require fenders at least as wide as the width of the tires.
New York A.B. 7248-would require a waste tire management and recycling fee to be added to the sales price of tires sold in New York.
Nevada A.B. 416-would institute biennial inspections; exempts motor vehicles three years old or newer and vehicles with less then 36,000 miles.
Washington H.B. 2236-would prohibit the use of daytime running lights.
California S.B. 315-would prohibit vehicles reported as a total loss or dismantled from being reregistered until they pass safety and emissions inspections.
Maine H.B. 1002-would define "automotive graveyard" as an outdoor area used to store three or more unregistered vehicles; exempt areas used to store, organize or display hobbyist vehicles.
Minnesota S.B. 850-would restrict the use of off-highway vehicles on state land.
Michigan H.B. 4457-would remove the requirement that the parking brake be used whenever a motor vehicle stops on a highway.
Title, Tags and Registration
California A.B. 477-would allow special interest license plate programs established on or before 1/1/04 to continue to operate.
Minnesota H.B. 1169-would permit collector vehicles to be used for general transportation.
Minnesota H.B. 1381/H.B. 1319-would define classic cars; require the establishment of an advisory committee to help designate vehicles as classic cars.
Montana S.B. 118-would requires license plates be conspicuously displayed and firmly attached to the front and rear bumper.
SEMA Action Network Club Events
May 10, Prescott
6th Annual Rod and Custom Car Show
Sponsor: Mountain Top Street Rodders
May 17-18, Sonoma
15th Nitro Nationals Nostalgia Drags
Sponsor: Goodguys Rod and Custom Association
May 23-26, Stoddard Valley
Hi Desert Round-Up
Sponsor: California 4 Wheel Drive Association
May 30-June 1, Pleasanton
10th Summer Get-Together
Sponsor: Goodguys Rod and Custom Association
May 24, Waterford
Sponsor: Connecticut MG Club
June 1, Windsor Locks
Auto Show and Aircraft Exhibit
Sponsor: Connecticut Council of Car Clubs
June 7, Pensacola
Mopars at Seville Square
Sponsor: Pensacola Mopar Club
May 10, South Elgin
Sponsor: Chicagoland Buick Club
May 23-25, Springfield
20th Annual Mid-America Street Rod Nationals
Sponsor: National Street Rod Association
June 1, Warrenton
5th Annual Car Show
Sponsor: American Roadhouse Car Club
May 25, Lahaska
2nd Annual Spring Meet Antique Auto Show
Sponsor: Professional Car Society, Northeast Chapter
June 1, Schnecksville
All Chevy Show
Sponsor: Late Great Chevy Club, East Penn Chapter
June 6-8, York
30th Annual Street Rod Nationals East
Sponsor: National Street Rod Association
May 16-18, Fredericksburg
29th Annual State Run
Sponsor: Lone Star Street Rod Association
May 29-June 1, Clear Lake
2003 South Central Regional Convention
Sponsor: Vintage Thunderbird Club Int’l.
May 17-18, Mount Vernon
Sponsor: Studebaker Drivers Club, Puget Sound Chapter
May 17-18, Monroe
30th Annual Seattle Auto Swap Meet
Sponsor: Early Ford V-8 Club