Meet California State Senator K. Maurice Johannessen: A Fellow Hobbyist in the California Legislature
California State Senator K. Maurice Johannessen (R-4) immigrated to the U.S. from Norway in 1952. After serving during the Korean War, he returned home to California and began a career in real estate. Troubled by increasing tax rates and unnecessary government intrusion, Senator Johannessen was elected and served as Mayor of the City of Redding in 1988-89. In 1990, he was elected to the Shasta County Board of Supervisors, and served as chairman from 1992-1993. He was elected to the California Senate in a special election in 1993.
A businessman, Reserve Deputy Sheriff and former local elected official, Senator Johannessen brings real-world experience to the legislature. Senator Johannessen is also a friend to automotive enthusiasts. He introduced several pro-hobbyist bills on behalf of SEMA, including S.B. 1081 (the exhaust noise bill), which was recently signed into law by Governor Gray Davis, and is an advocate for recycling parts from scrapped cars.
The Senator recently took a few minutes from his busy schedule to speak with Driving Force about his efforts to protect the rights of automotive enthusiasts and about his own interest in the hobby:
Driving Force (DF): We know that you are an enthusiast. Tell us about your vehicles and your personal interest in the hobby.
Sen. Johannessen: I have several cars, among them a 1970 Camaro specially constructed for and successfully raced in the 1982 Cannonball Express (New York to San Francisco). Among notable aftermarket parts are a nine-inch Ford stock car rear end and a Gale Banks 350 twin turbo pushing 650 plus Hp. I also have a 1974 Lotus Super 7 with Lotus big valve twin cam engine with twin webbers all balanced and blueprinted with engine competition clutch and transmission - it's fast and fun! Then there's my 1947 Ford "Rod" chopped with all modern conveniences - used frequently for commuting to the State Capitol. I have a 1982 vintage Lamborghini Countach replica full of aftermarket parts that was used as a front page and centerfold for Specialty Car Magazine (May 1993). And lastly, one of my favorites, a 1997 Viper GTS - used to satisfy speed and power. The rest of my cars are fairly normal - some turbo tweaking here and there. I also have a '66 Cobra. It is an excellent reproduction, but I wish, in my next life, for an original Shelby. One can only dream.
DF: SEMA has been fortunate to partner with you many times in the past on key legislative initiatives. This year, S.B. 100, a bill to allow specially constructed vehicle engines to receive a model-year designation to correspond with the production engine they most closely resemble, and S.B. 1081, a bill to allow for aftermarket exhaust systems which conform with a 95-dB standard. Tell us why you worked so tirelessly to get these bills enacted.
Sen. Johannessen: Cars are my hobby and I have found over the years that aftermarket parts in most cases are better than original. They offer more design opportunities, give better performance and produce environmentally friendly results. But try to explain that to some bureaucrats! So, in my case, the work I do and all these bills I have been carrying to help the hobbyist and aftermarket parts suppliers are to help our legislature understand the value this market has. Not only for the state's economy but also to help upgrade our vehicles to much higher standards than first manufactured.
DF: Legislation in California is often used as a 'barometer" by which to forecast what potential threats to the hobby are soon to appear in other state legislatures. What possible upcoming legislation do you foresee in California that we should be concerned about?
Sen. Johannessen: Unfortunately, California has been in the forefront of enacting legislation based on faulty information and mostly voodoo science. By denying our aftermarket industries to supply parts and equipment for not only rebuilding old cars but also to freely build "kit cars," California is depriving a hobby that is truly a family affair. This is an activity that would also enhance our clean air efforts and not damage it as some legislators believe.
DF: We know that term limits prohibit you from serving another term in the California Senate. Is there any legislation you would like to see introduced to further protect the rights of hobbyists in your last year of service?
Sen. Johannessen: It is my hope that more legislators will take up the challenge to educate their fellow members and the bureaucracies of the opportunity to really make a difference in improving our vehicles, not only the appearance, but also for the benefits of our environment. There is no reason why California should not support the building of replica cars and allow aftermarket parts that will enhance the operation of our cars, primarily without the costly testing required by the government morass that takes years to do and includes costs that very few can afford.
I would suggest that more people take an active role to support these valuable hobbies. Who knows? In each person there may be a spark or a gleam in the eye when thinking about that car they'd love to work on or the 'kit car' they always wanted to own.
DF: Driving Force thanks you very much for your time and your efforts to protect the hobby.
NHTSA Considers Regulating Headlamp Glare
Due to a smattering of complaints, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is requesting public comment on a perceived problem with headlamp glare to determine whether or not the federal government should require both aftermarket and original equipment headlamp manufacturers to reduce glare. The most common complaints NHTSA receives concern glare from higher-mounted headlamps found on SUVs and pickups; high intensity discharge headlamps (HIDs), often referred to as "blue-tinted" headlights, found on high-end sports and luxury cars; and auxiliary or supplemental lighting most often used to improve foul weather and nighttime driving vision.
As an industry, our technological advances in lighting - from halogen lighting to HID headlamps to auxiliary driving and fog lamps - has drastically improved driving vision and safety. In their regulatory notice, NHTSA indicates that there is significant safety data to support our contention. At the same time, NHTSA also admits that current "glare complaints" are hard to tabulate, difficult to define accurately and may not be truly substantive.
One of NHTSA's potential solutions to glare from higher-mounted headlamps is to simply limit how high headlamps can be mounted. While this sounds simple, it is far from it. Such a solution could force manufacturers to undergo substantial redesign and retooling of popular pickup and SUV models, potentially passing these costs along to consumers. This solution could also affect those consumers and hobbyists who choose to lift their rigs for work or off-highway recreation by making their lighting (and lift) height effectively illegal.
NHTSA asks manufacturers and the public to answer 46 questions in order to guide the agency on how to respond to headlamp glare matters. Comments are due Tues., Nov. 27. To obtain a copy of NHTSA's action, go to www.access.gpo.gov/su_docs/fedreg/a010928c.html and scroll down to listing for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
California Scrappage Regulations
On October 25, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) held a public workshop to discuss proposed amendments to the agency's scrappage regulations. The proposal attempts to minimize differences between CARB's scrappage program and the scrappage program operated by California's Bureau of Automotive Repair.
The proposal also contains a SEMA-supported and hobbyist-friendly policy option that would allow for total recycling and resale of all parts from vehicles destined for scrappage. CARB staff is currently recommending revisions that allow parts recovery only for non-emission related and non-drive train parts.
SEMA and concerned California hobbyists remain hopeful that CARB will see it clear to protect the classic car hobby in conjunction with their efforts to clean and protect California's air.
Can You Believe?
Rodders Take a Stand in Illinois
Gary Bohlen of Bartonville, Illinois, learned the hard way how eye-catching vehicles are often targeted by law enforcement. In April, he was stopped by a State Trooper for illegally tinted windows and no bumpers. Now, we at Driving Force do not recommend that you remove the bumpers from your 1997 Chrysler minivan (even if it does look cool), but the vehicle Gary was driving was his prized 1932 Ford street rod.
The plot thickens. At three recent central Illinois cars shows, ironically including a "Cops for Kids" event, a pair of State Troopers began issuing tickets to show participants. The Illinois State Police have defended their actions, stating, "Charity is not an issue. Troopers across the state participate in many charities that raise thousands of dollars. None of those events encourage or allow obvious violations of the law." As news of these incidents spread throughout the street rod community, event attendance diminished. Many Illinois rodders are now concerned their rides may be illegal. Regrettably, they may be right.
Illinois is one of 22 states that do not recognize street rods as a separate vehicle class with unique equipment requirements. Instead, street rods are held to the same equipment standards as ordinary passenger vehicles. Additionally, there is no vehicle safety inspection program in Illinois. This forces rodders to interpret vehicle equipment rules on their own when building their rides.
The reality is that Illinois law deems many rods illegal or unsafe, despite the fact that most rodders are ten times more likely to identify and correct faulty vehicle equipment than the average commuter. In fact, many street rodders in Illinois and across the country participate in programs like the National Street Rod Association (NSRA) safety inspection program, a service that helps owners ensure that their vehicles are engineered as safely as possible.
Thankfully, Gary Bohlen, Tom Jackson and many other Illinois rodders are fighting back. Gary started a group called the Committee to Upgrade Street Rod Laws in Illinois. The SEMA Action Network has joined forces with Bohlen in his efforts to bring some common sense to Illinois street rod requirements. The goal is to have legislation introduced that creates a specific street rod vehicle registration class and equipment requirements similar to those recommended by the NSRA.
If you'd like to be a part of this effort, you can reach Gary Bohlen at 309/633-9330 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
If you have a story regarding unfair restrictions on our activities as hobbyists or about an unfortunate run-in with the authorities, send it to us at:
SEMA, Attn: "Can You Believe,"
1317 F Street, NW, Suite 500
Washington, D.C. 20004.
We Get Letters
(Last month's "Can You Believe?" noted that Texas State Troopers wrote a bunch of tickets at the entrance to a car show in Round Rock, Texas. Below are some readers' responses.)
Let me say at the outset, I support law enforcement. Most self- respecting hot-rodders - when you get right down to it - do, too. I am glad these brave men and women are around to "protect and serve." The recent events in New York only enhance this feeling.
While it seems trivial in context, what on earth were the Texas Troopers doing at the Round Rock, Texas, car show mentioned in your "Can You Believe?" (October 2001, Driving Force) piece last month? It seems like they could have found more productive uses of their time. How many inconsequential tickets were written? How many cars were delayed and inspected only to be found legal? How about this: Did the traffic jam they created cause a dangerous traffic hazard?
Again, I have NOTHING against the police. But, for the life of me, I can't understand how their actions helped anyone.
- Scott Sanders
I've gotta say that while the troopers were not doing anything constructive or useful toward their stated mission "to protect and serve," that to characterize the example as "a horror story regarding unfair restrictions on our rights as hobbyists" is not only ridiculous, it is untrue. Hobbyists have no "right" to build and drive cars they know are illegal.
I'd be much more sympathetic toward a story about cops hassling hot-rodders whose equipment was found to be legal so no tickets could be written. The rules are pretty simple, they don't change much, and when we break them intentionally, we have to consider tickets the cost of doing business. We can build 100 percent-legal cars as easily as we can build illegal ones, and I think SEMA would be better served by reminders of that fact, than by complaints of persecution when, in fact, the drivers were in the wrong. It annoys me to get a speeding ticket on a deserted highway where I'm not endangering anyone and where the cop isn't likely to apprehend any bank robbers or murderers. But when it happens, I know I was breaking the law and unhappily pay the price.
- Dan Carney
The actions of the Texas State Troopers mentioned in last month's article was a prime example of over- zealous behavior. Their methods should be considered an embarrassment to upstanding law enforcement officers who pride themselves on being fair. Discretion is an important part of law enforcement. Given that this show was a community event, it is clear these officers used none.
- Brian Thompson
I just wanted to comment on the story about car show visitors being targeted by the Highway Patrol for equipment violations. While I understand that the police have the right to cite people for these minor violations, which I don't personally believe are a real safety concern, I do not feel that this is a good use of tax dollars. Don't get me wrong, I support the police in their efforts to keep our roads safe, but I don't believe that this was their motivation for camping out at the gate of the show. The fact that the local police asked them to leave says a lot to me about how much they were really serving the interests of the public.
- Ray Gamble
From the Editor:
Points to ponder: 1) SEMA supports the law enforcement community. They have a difficult job. We simply suggest that creating a two- hour traffic jam at a car show to cite drivers for missing front license plates, etc. is a poor use of police time. 2) SEMA in no way advocates operating unsafe vehicles and we encourage compliance with the law. We do, however, question whether many vehicle equipment laws actually protect motorists. 3) The vast majority of enthusiasts believe they drive safe and legally equipped vehicles. Most are shocked when informed they violate the law and are incredulous when told their vehicle is "unsafe." 4) Often, state vehicle equipment laws are unclear and open to widely differing interpretations by citing officers.
None of us want unsafe or illegal vehicles prowling the road. Consequently, SEMA will continue to fight for fair and reasonable vehicle laws that provide clear requirements for BOTH enthusiasts and law enforcement.
NOVEMBER SAN CLUB EVENTS
Nov. 17-18, Scottsdale
4th Annual Goodguys Southwest Nationals
Sponsor: Goodguys Rod and Custom Association
Nov. 7, Sacramento
Sponsor: Capital City Mopars
Nov. 10-11, Pleasanton
12th Annual Goodguys Autumn Get Together
Sponsor: Goodguys Rod and Custom Association
Nov. 3, Lake Worth
35th Annual Pioneer Days
Sponsor: Vintage Auto Club-Palm Beach Region