The Fast and the Furious
From ICE Vehicles to Motorsports, SEMA Secures Wins in Multiple States
By Christian Robinson
When it comes to getting things done in politics, it's no secret that the federal government moves at a pace that can only be described as glacial. While our esteemed congressmen and women are busy playing political games and filibustering themselves into oblivion, state legislatures are getting the real work done – and they're doing it at lightning speed.
Why do state lawmakers work so efficiently when compared to their colleagues in Washington, DC? For starters, state legislatures are much smaller and more nimble than their federal counterparts. With fewer representatives to wrangle and less bureaucracy to navigate, state legislators can often act quickly and decisively on issues that matter to their constituents. Want to pass a bill on healthcare reform? In a state legislature, that might take a matter of weeks. In Congress, it might take a matter of years.
Another reason why state legislatures are so effective is that they often have more direct contact with their constituents. With smaller districts, state legislators are often more in tune with the needs and wants of the people they serve. This means they can act more quickly on issues that matter to their constituents, without getting bogged down in the kind of political theater that so often plagues Congress.
State legislatures play a critical role in shaping the laws and regulations that govern automotive enthusiasts. From emissions and safety regulations to license plates, state legislatures have the power to make or break the automotive industry's success. That's why SEMA pays close attention to state legislatures and has built a robust state legislative operation to ensure that our community's voice is heard.
Through its state legislative program, SEMA works to promote and protect automotive interests in all 50 states. With a team of experienced professionals and a vast network of member companies and volunteers, SEMA advocates for policies that support enthusiasts' freedoms as well as innovation, job creation, and economic growth in the specialty automotive sector.
What has SEMA's state public and government affairs team been up to this year? Let's dive in.
The automotive aftermarket industry was built around the internal combustion engine (ICE). Following California's move to ban the sale of new gas- and diesel-powered vehicles last year and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) recent proposal that seeks to have electric vehicles makeup two-thirds of new passenger vehicles sold by 2032, the political debate surrounding ICE vehicles has dramatically shifted.
SEMA believes that ZEV mandates are unnecessary and harmful to both industry and vehicle owners, as they limit consumer choice and stifle innovation. Instead, SEMA advocates for free-market solutions to automotive emission reductions, such as advancements in alternate fuel technologies.
To this end, SEMA has been working closely with lawmakers in several states to pass bills and resolutions affirming their commitment to the ICE and free-market solutions. So far, lawmakers in 13 states - Washington, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, and Vermont - have introduced or passed SEMA-supported bills and resolutions.
One of the most recent victories for SEMA came in Texas, where Governor Greg Abbott signed into law a SEMA-supported bill preventing any city or county from adopting any fuel or engine mandate. Similarly, in New Hampshire, lawmakers overwhelmingly voted to kill a SEMA-opposed bill that would have tied the state to California's vehicle standards.
SEMA has also been monitoring state regulatory agencies as they seek to implement California's ZEV mandate. Delaware, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Maryland, all states that have historically followed California's emissions standards, are expected to issue proposed rules in 2023 adopting the measure. Once released, SEMA will be asking member companies and enthusiasts to oppose the proposals.
Notably, regulators in Colorado issued the final draft of the state's 2023 Colorado Electric Vehicle (EV) Plan, which does not include a ban on the sale of new internal combustion engine-powered vehicles. This is significant, as Colorado is one of 17-states that traditionally implement California's clean car laws.
In Virginia, the House of Delegates passed SEMA-supported legislation that would have repealed a 2021 law tying the state to California's 2035 ZEV mandate. Unfortunately, lawmakers in the narrowly controlled Democratic Senate blocked the bill from final passage. However, SEMA will be part of a coalition of groups working to support a friendlier legislature for Governor Glenn Youngkin this fall, setting up a better opportunity for repeal during the 2024 legislative session.
SEMA's efforts to oppose ZEV mandates are not just about protecting the interests of the automotive aftermarket industry - they are also about preserving consumer choice and advancing technological innovation. By advocating for free-market solutions to automotive emission reductions, SEMA is promoting a sustainable future for the industry that benefits everyone. Support your region's efforts by using the custom links found on the following page to sign the letter to your elected officials: Protecting America's Vehicle Choice
While SEMA opposes ZEV mandates, it does not oppose ZEVs themselves. SEMA is sponsoring legislation in California to promote the conversion of gas- or diesel-powered vehicles into zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs) via a $4,000 rebate. This bill will provide a more level playing field for the automotive aftermarket by providing similar rebates to those who convert as those who are purchasing new EVs. The Senate unanimously passed the bill, which now will be considered in the Assembly.
While the politics of vehicle power plants have dominated the headlines, it's not the only area on which SEMA has been engaged. West Virginia has taken a major step forward in promoting its motorsports industry with the recent signing of the Motorsport Responsibility Act by Governor Jim Justice. The new law, which has been supported by SEMA and PRI, defines areas of responsibility and assumed risks by participants for both recreational and commercial motorsports facilities.
The main goal of the law is to reduce liability insurance premiums and make West Virginia a more attractive destination for racers, promoters, and future facilities. By outlining clear areas of responsibility and assumed risks, the law will help to mitigate the potential for accidents and injuries at motorsports events, and ensure that all parties involved understand their role and obligations.
The Motorsport Responsibility Act is a significant win for motorsports in West Virginia. By reducing liability insurance premiums and promoting a safer and more consistent regulatory environment, the state is taking important steps towards attracting new racers, promoters, and facilities, and securing a sustainable future for its motorsports industry.
Lawmakers in various states have been grappling with the issue of excessive motor vehicle exhaust noise. In Tennessee, for example, Governor Bill Lee signed into law a bill based on SEMA's model, which creates a single, objective standard for determining if a vehicle is too loud. Prior to this change, the state had ill-defined and subjective standards for determining compliance with the law.
SEMA initially opposed the bill, which sought to increase penalties for motorists who violated the existing law. However, SEMA secured positive amendments to the proposal en route to the state governor's desk.
In contrast, lawmakers in Hawaii killed a pair of SEMA-opposed bills that would have created a new inspection process and penalties for modified exhaust systems. Meanwhile, the New Mexico House of Representatives killed a SEMA-opposed bill that would have banned any modification to a vehicle's exhaust system that increased its sound output.
These different outcomes demonstrate the complex nature of the issue of motor vehicle exhaust noise and the challenges that lawmakers face in balancing the interests of motorists and the public. While SEMA advocates for reasonable regulations that balance these interests, the organization opposes measures that unfairly target motorists or restrict their ability to customize their vehicles.
Ultimately, the key to addressing the issue of motor vehicle exhaust noise is to adopt an objective and consistent standard for measuring noise levels. This will ensure that all measurements are conducted in a reliable and fair manner and that motorists are not subject to arbitrary or inconsistent enforcement of exhaust noise regulations.
SEMA has achieved significant victories in state legislatures across the country this year, successfully advancing the interests of the automotive aftermarket industry and protecting the rights of enthusiasts. These wins demonstrate the power of grassroots advocacy and collaboration between industry stakeholders, and pave the way for a brighter future for SEMA members and the automotive community at large. As SEMA continues to monitor and engage with legislative issues on the state and federal levels, it is clear that the association will remain a steadfast defender of the automotive aftermarket, ensuring that enthusiasts can enjoy their passion for cars without undue interference or burdensome regulations.
For further details on each effort and the complete list of this year's Legislative Action Alerts, visit semaSAN.com/Alerts.