The Auto Hobby’s Policy Influence Rewarded Again in 2018
Victory on legislative turf can take many forms. Governments constantly seek to resolve matters through rulemaking or rewriting, after all. From introduction in the committee of jurisdiction to its eventual outcome, opportunities to shape a bill’s course along the way are ever-changing. Long-time advocates know that the path for future policies is sometimes measured and clear—while the opposite is true in other cases. Ultimately, the SEMA Action Network’s (SAN) goal throughout each session is constant: support pro-hobby initiatives into approval while thwarting any threats.
Despite the best efforts of the car-loving community, many proposals never reach a definitive finish line—for better and for worse. It’s true that enactment into law or death are common fates. But make no mistake: the end of a bill’s life does not always conclude once the legislature adjourns. History has proven that an idea attempted in one region has a way of appearing in another place, or reappearing in the same spot at a future time. Stay on guard—the next round of bouts affecting tomorrow’s laws will arrive with the New Year…
In the meantime, the following summary of the 2018 session offers the highlights from coast to coast. Many topics facing the automotive community this year were familiar. In a refreshing twist, most new rules being considered by legislatures were intended to benefit cars and trucks. Perhaps most interestingly, a surge of proposals arose in state houses aimed at redefining the rules applied to vintage military surplus vehicles—some were even passed. Take a look:
California Combustion Engines: Legislation introduced in the California Assembly would have required a transition to fully-electric vehicles in the state by the year 2040. Due to an outpouring of negative responses to the proposal, the bill was never considered by its committee and was pulled by the sponsor.
Idaho Military Vehicles: Governor Butch Otter signed into law legislation that allows a vehicle built for the U.S. Armed Forces to be registered and operated on public highways in Idaho, even if such vehicle does not meet federal motor vehicle safety standards. Many military surplus vehicles were not designed to meet those standards and previously could not be registered.
Louisiana Military Vehicles: Legislation was signed into law to allow for the registration and titling of military vehicles in the state of Louisiana.
Maryland Emissions Inspections: Governor Larry Hogan created rules to exempt light-duty vehicles model-year ’96 or older from emissions inspections. In Maryland, light-duty vehicles are defined as vehicles with a gross weight under 8,500 lbs. In a statement to the press, Governor Hogan noted the small impact these vehicles have on overall air pollution and the burden testing places on owners. Further, the rules will exempt new vehicles purchased in the state from emissions testing for an additional year. This decision is estimated to save Maryland more than $2 million annually.
Maryland Off-Highway Vehicles: Governor Hogan signed pro-hobby legislation into law that establishes the OHV Trail Fund as a special, non-lapsing fund. It also specifies that the purpose of the Fund is to maintain and construct trails for off-highway recreational vehicles on land that is owned or leased by the Department of Natural Resources. Currently, there is no specific fund related to OHV trails.
Michigan Removal of Towing Restriction: Governor Rick Snyder signed into law a bill to allow for the attachment of a tow ball, bicycle rack, removable hitch or any other device designed to carry an object on the rear of a vehicle, even if it obstructs the rear license plate.
Nebraska Titling and Registration: Governor Pete Ricketts signed into law a bill to ease the process by which replica, assembled, kit and reconstructed cars are titled and registered. The legislation is based on a SEMA-model bill and provides registration categories for replica vehicles, assembled vehicles, kits and reconstructed vehicles.
New Mexico License Plates: Legislation requiring plates on the front and back of all motor vehicles died when the legislature adjourned. The bill had already been approved by the New Mexico House of Representatives and was awaiting consideration by the Senate. The bill may be reintroduced in the 2019 session.
Rhode Island Specialty License Plates: Courtesy license plate bills for antique vehicles and street rods/customs were signed into law by Governor Gina Raimondo. The bills provide antique vehicles with courtesy year-of-manufacture plates. Under the current law, “Antique” plates are available for vehicles that are at least 25 years old and used only for exhibitions, parades, and car club activities. Vehicles currently registered as “Antique” may purchase and display replica year-of-manufacture plates with DMV approval. S.B. 2484 provides a courtesy plate for “Street Rods” and “Custom” vehicles. Under current law, a street rod is defined as a ’48 or older vehicle or a vehicle manufactured after ’48 to resemble a vehicle manufactured before ’49. Custom vehicles are defined as any motor vehicle at least 25 or more years old (or replicas that resemble a vehicle that is at least 25 years old) and of a model year after ’48 that has either been altered from the manufacturer’s original design or has a body constructed from non-original materials.
South Carolina Motorsports Complexes: Governor Henry McMaster signed into law legislation aiding and incentivizing the construction of motorsports complexes in the state. The bill recognizes the important economic and civic value that additional motorsports can provide. The new law will help pave the way for new racing facilities in the state. A motorsports tourism incentive fund will be created to award grants or loans to attract and expand tourism and hospitality projects related to events at such complexes. The new law exempts certain building materials for a complex from sales tax and to provides the process by which a qualified company may claim the exemption.
South Dakota Historic Vehicles: Governor Dennis Daugaard signed into law a bill allowing historic vehicles to display a single license plate for certain vehicle model years. Currently, a “historic car” is a motor vehicle more than 30 years old and is not used for daily transportation. The new law also sets the mileage limit for vehicles with historic plates at 4,000 miles per year.
South Dakota Special Interest Vehicles: Governor Daugaard signed into law legislation increasing the mileage limitation from 6,000 to 7,500 miles per year for special-interest vehicles and allowing the option of personalized plates for these vehicles. A “special-interest vehicle” is a motor vehicle that is collected, preserved, restored or maintained by the owner as a leisure pursuit and is not used for general or commercial transportation.
Utah Emissions Inspection: Governor Gary Hebert signed into a law a bill to extend the emissions inspection exemption to vehicles that are model-year ’67 or older as well as diesel vehicles ’97 or older. Under the previous law, all gasoline and diesel vehicles six model years or older were tested biennially, and all vehicles ’67 or older were tested annually.
Utah Off-Highway Vehicles: Governor Herbert signed into law pro-hobby legislation increasing funding for OHV infrastructure. Utah residents now have a public fund solely devoted to OHV trail expansion and maintenance. Previously, there was no specific fund dedicated to off-roading.
Virginia Military Vehicles: Governor Ralph Northam signed into law a bill that allows qualifying military vehicles to be registered and operated on public roadways as antiques. In Virginia, a “military surplus off-road motor vehicle” is defined as a high-mobility multipurpose wheeled vehicle (Humvee) that was manufactured by or under the direction of the U.S. Armed Forces and subsequently authorized for sale to civilians. Additionally, a favorable amendment was made to allow currently registered military vehicles to retain registration without the antique designation.
Virginia Exhaust Requirements: Governor Northam signed into law legislation excluding antique motor vehicles, defined as motor vehicles 25 years old or older, from the requirement that such vehicles be equipped with an exhaust system in good working order to prevent excessive or unusual levels of noise. Current law only excludes antique motor vehicles manufactured prior to ’50 from such requirements and only allows an exhaust system originally installed by the manufacturer or an equivalent.
West Virginia License Plates: Governor Jim Justice signed into law legislation that allows for personalized license plates on antique vehicles. The plates will be available for an annual fee of $40. Antique vehicles are vehicles that are more than 25 years old and owned solely as collector’s items.
West Virginia Off-Road Recreation: Legislation sponsored by State Caucus member Senator Mark Maynard was signed into law. The bill creates a two-year pilot program allowing all-terrain and recreational vehicles in Cabwaylingo State Forest, which currently has no all-terrain or recreational vehicle access.
RPM Act: More than 190 members of Congress have co-sponsored the bipartisan “Recognizing the Protection of Motorsports (RPM) Act.” The RPM Act clarifies that the Clean Air Act allows motor vehicles to be converted into dedicated race cars and that it is legal to produce, sell and install race parts for these vehicles. Passage of the RPM Act will protect sales beyond emissions-related parts, including racing tires, wheels, brakes, suspension equipment and roll cages. Customers won’t be buying and installing these products if a car or motorcycle cannot be converted into a dedicated race vehicle. The House Energy and Commerce Committee has approved the bill, and the Senate Clean Air Subcommittee has held a hearing, setting up potential votes by the full House and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. While significant progress has been achieved, racers, fans and the industry must keep the pressure on their members of Congress to get the RPM Act over the finish line. To contact your lawmakers, visit www.sema.org/rpm.
Replica Vehicle Law: A SEMA-supported law enacted in 2015 will allow small auto manufacturers to sell completed replica cars. These vehicles resemble cars manufactured at least 25 years ago. Companies will be able to produce up to 325 turnkey replica vehicles (per company) in the United States and 5,000 worldwide under a simplified regulatory system. Until now, the federal government’s regulatory system did not differentiate between a company producing millions of vehicles and a business producing a few custom cars. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and California Air Resources Board are finalizing regulations to implement the law. Industry and enthusiasts are challenging the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to move forward so that the program can take effect in 2019.
E15/Ethanol Gasoline: SEMA-supported legislation has been introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives that would expand the current warning label required on gas pumps dispensing E15 (gasoline containing 15% ethanol). The new label would include the words “Warning” and “Check Your Owner’s Manual,” be 5x7 in. or larger, and include pictograms depicting a boat, lawnmower, chainsaw, motorcycle and snowmobile. The current label is about 3½x3 in. and does not include the words “Warning,” “Owner’s Manual” or pictograms. Ethanol, especially in higher concentrations such as E15, can cause metal corrosion and dissolve certain plastics and rubbers in automobiles that were not constructed with ethanol-resistant materials. In 2011, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency made it illegal to use E15 fuel in motor vehicles made before 2001 as well as motorcycles, boats and gasoline-powered equipment.
Bonneville Salt Flats (BSF): The salt flats have significantly decreased in size over many decades as salt brine was channeled away from the area. SEMA, along with other organizations and companies comprising the Save the Salt Coalition, is working closely with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which manages the salt flats, in addition to federal and state lawmakers, on ways to restore the BSF and its 13-mile speedway. The coalition has proposed a comprehensive plan which includes increasing the amount of salt being pumped onto the salt flats during the winter. The coalition is working with the adjoining potash mine owner on plans to dramatically increase the amount of salt being pumped onto the salt flats and with lawmakers to fund the program. For more information, visit www.savethesalt.org.
National Monuments Legislative Reform: The U.S. House Natural Resources Committee passed SEMA-supported legislation that would limit the president’s authority to unilaterally designate national monuments. The bill would limit the size of future national monument designations, require approval of state and local government bodies for larger monument designations, cap the size of designations at 85,000 acres, and narrow the criteria used to determine national monuments. The bill would specifically require a National Environmental Policy Act review for smaller monuments, along with an environmental assessment for larger sizes. The county, state and governor would need to approve even larger sizes. The issue is consequential since national monuments automatically prohibit new roads or trails for motorized vehicles and require a new land management plan be drafted that could lead to more road closures.
National Monuments Regulatory Reform: The Trump Administration reviewed nearly 40 national monument designations dating back to 1996 to determine whether any should be rescinded, resized or modified. The review resulted in the reduction of size of several monuments including Bears Ears National Monument (reduced from 1.35 million acres to 202,000 acres) and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument (reduced from 1.9 million acres to just over 1 million acres) in Utah.
Outdoor Recreation: The U.S. House Natural Resources Committee passed a bill intended to promote access to outdoor recreation opportunities, streamline the permitting process for guides and recreation enthusiasts, make federal agencies accountable for prioritizing outdoor recreation, and address the maintenance backlog on America’s public lands through increased volunteerism. The Recreation Not Red-Tape Act is supported by the Outdoor Recreation Roundtable, which is comprised of 25 top industry associations, including SEMA, representing off-roading, camping, fishing, boating, hiking, archery and other sports. The outdoor recreation industry generates about $887 billion per year in economic activity and provides an estimated 7.6 million direct jobs. The bill was sent for House floor consideration. Action on a Senate bill was pending in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
Federal Recreation Advisory Committee: The U.S. Department of the Interior created a Recreation Advisory Committee to help improve visitor experiences on public lands. The committee is “dedicated to looking at public-private partnerships, with the goal of expanding access to and improving the infrastructure on public lands.”
Endangered Species Act: The U.S. House of Representatives passed five bills to reform the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The 40-year old law has produced few tangible results beyond road and trail closures, restrictive land-use designations and lawsuits. While millions of acres of land have been set aside to protect threatened and endangered animals and plants, more money has been spent on lawyers and court expenses than wildlife management. Among other changes, the legislation would require the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to consider the economic impact of adding a species as endangered or threatened when the agency makes listing decisions. The FWS would also have to make all data that is used as the basis for an ESA determination to be made available to impacted states. Billing rates awarded to lawyers and expert witnesses in ESA lawsuits would also be limited to $125 an hour. Hearings have been held in the Senate, but no other action has been scheduled.
Southern California OHV Recreation Areas: The U.S. House of Representatives passed SEMA-supported legislation from Rep. Paul Cook (R-CA) that would permanently designate six existing OHV areas comprising 300,000 acres in San Bernardino County: Johnson Valley (expanded by 11,000 acres), Spangler Hills, El Mirage, Rasor, Dumont Dunes and Stoddard Valley. While the so-called California Off-Road Recreation and Conservation Act expands wilderness designations in the California desert, the bill prohibits the Secretary of the Interior from closing any roads or trails that are currently open for motorized recreational access. The U.S. House Natural Resources Committee passed SEMA-supported legislation to create the Apple Valley Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation Area. The Desert Community Lands Act would transfer 4,630 acres of federal land from the U.S. Department of the Interior to the town of Apple Valley, California, and provide the public with opportunities for OHV recreation. The bill also provides 80 acres of federal lands to the City of Twentynine Palms, making race events at 29 Palms Motorsports Arena more accessible to the public.
Oceano Dunes ORV Access: The number of ORV riding areas at Oceano Dunes in California will be reduced under a settlement agreement reached between the California State Parks Department and the San Luis Obispo County Air Pollution Control District. The agreement is intended to decrease fine particulate matter (PM10) emissions by about 30% by 2023. Under the agreement, about 100 acres of riding area would be immediately fenced off, including some within the popular La Grande Tract. The program includes reintroduction of native vegetation within fenced-off areas, deployment of wind fences and installment of grooved concrete to help remove sand from vehicles as they exit the park.
National Collector Vehicle Appreciation Day: At the request of the SAN, the U.S. Congress introduced companion resolutions (S. Res. 574/H. Res. 980) recognizing Collector Car Appreciation Day (CCAD) on Friday, July 13, 2018. Each was sponsored by co-chairs of the SEMA-supported Congressional Automotive Performance and Motorsports Caucus. The day serves to focus attention on the vital role automotive restoration and collection plays in American society. Thousands of Americans gather at car cruises, parades and other events to celebrate our nation’s automotive heritage. Next year’s event is scheduled for July 12, 2019.
A number of domestic and foreign jurisdictions recognized CCAD 2018. They include:
• Louisiana: A bill was signed into law that every year will designate the Friday, Saturday and Sunday of the second weekend in July as Louisiana Collector Car Appreciation weekend.
• Mississippi: The Mississippi Legislature passed a Senate Concurrent Resolution officially designating July 13, 2018, as Collector Car Appreciation Day in the state.
• West Virginia: The West Virginia Legislature passed a House Concurrent Resolution designating the second Friday in July as Collector Car Appreciation Day in the state.
• Wisconsin: An Assembly Joint Resolution to annually designate the second Friday in July as Collector Vehicle Appreciation Day in the state was approved by the full Wisconsin Assembly.
• Canada: Most of the provincial governments issue annual proclamations to officially declare Collector Car Appreciation Day and/or Automotive Heritage Month. This year included Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Saskatchewan.