2022: The Year in Review
The laws and regulations that govern our prized vehicles and their components play an undeniably important role in our hobby. Each legislative session, dedicated automotive advocates defend the way we enjoy these freedoms nationwide. Not all battles are won. Nor do solutions necessarily come quickly. Challenges often require significant time to reach a reasonable conclusion.
Remaining informed of all relevant state and federal proposals is job one for the SEMA Action Network (SAN). Some bills take pro-hobby positions, but many do not. Staying on top of new proposals allows our community to influence officials at critical moments—ensuring the best possible outcome for enthusiasts. Over the past year, many important legislative/regulatory issues were addressed that impact our hobby's future. The following summary offers a recap.
Thanks for your ongoing help in supporting initiatives in your home state, as well as spreading the word about the good fight with others.
RPM Act: The Recognizing the Protection of Motorsports Act (RPM Act) was reintroduced in the 117th U.S. Congress. The bipartisan, pro-motorsports legislation will clarify that it is legal under the Clean Air Act (CAA) to make emissions-related changes to convert a street vehicle into a dedicated racecar. It will also confirm that it is legal to produce, market and install racing equipment. In 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a draft rule stating that such conversions were illegal, as were products used to make the conversions. The EPA withdrew the draft rule following a huge, SEMA-led public outcry but still stands by this controversial interpretation of the CAA. The legislation (H.R. 3281/S. 2736) is sponsored by Representatives Patrick McHenry (R-NC) and Raul Ruiz (D-CA) and Senators Richard Burr (R-NC) and Jon Tester (D-MT). The Senate Environment and Public Works (EPW) Committee held a hearing on the bill in September. The bill is being considered by the Senate EPW and House Energy & Commerce Committees at the time of publication.
Court Rules Racing Coalition Lacks Standing to Challenge EPA: The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia dismissed a lawsuit brought by the Racing Enthusiasts and Suppliers Coalition (RESC) against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for lack of standing. The suit, brought by a coalition of racing enthusiasts and aftermarket parts business owners, challenged the 2015 EPA interpretation of the Clean Air Act that motor vehicles designated for street use cannot be converted into dedicated race vehicles. Although the EPA abandoned efforts to make this policy a formal regulation in 2016, the agency still maintains the practice of modifying the emission system of a motor vehicle for the purpose of converting it for racing is illegal. The Court found that EPA's 2016 rule did not create a challengeable rule and that RESC had not shown they were injured by the EPA's rule. The Court did not discuss in any detail nor decide the merits of the case concerning the EPA's authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate dedicated race vehicles that are converted from street vehicles.
Right to Repair: U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL) introduced the "Right to Equitable and Professional Auto Industry Repair (REPAIR) Act." The SEMA-supported legislation (H.R. 6570) aims to ensure the preservation of consumer choice, a fair marketplace, and the continued safe operation of the nation's 288 million registered passenger and commercial motor vehicles. As vehicle technology continues to advance, new barriers to a competitive auto servicing marketplace are emerging. These barriers limit consumer choice in where to service, repair and modify motor vehicles and increase servicing costs. The REPAIR Act, if enacted into law, will reduce these barriers, putting consumers' interests first. The bill is backed by SEMA, the Auto Care Association, the Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association, and the CAR Coalition.
Low Volume Replica Vehicle Manufacturers: NHTSA finalized a regulation to implement the SEMA-led Low Volume Motor Vehicle Manufacturers Act. SEMA worked with Congress to amend federal law to enable small auto manufacturers to produce completed and fully functional, turn-key replica vehicles under a streamlined regulatory structure that reflects the distinctly different business model of this niche industry. NHTSA's regulations offer a business-friendly pathway for companies to begin producing up to 325 such replica cars a year. Replicas must resemble production vehicles manufactured at least 25 years ago to qualify.
E15 Ethanol Fuel: The EPA announced it would issue a temporary waiver to allow for the summertime sale of gasoline with up to 15% ethanol (E15). Currently, E15 cannot be sold between June 1 and September 15 due to fuel-volatility concerns that higher blends of ethanol combined with warmer temperatures may lead to increased ground-level ozone formation and smog. Ethanol, especially in higher concentrations such as E15, can cause metal corrosion and dissolve certain plastics and rubbers in older automobiles that were not constructed with ethanol-resistant materials and certain specialty high-performance equipment installed on newer vehicles. SEMA opposes the expansion of E15 gasoline sales as there may not be enough protections to guard against misfuelling.
Outdoor Recreation: The U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee unanimously passed the bipartisan "America's Outdoor Recreation Act of 2022," S. 3266, a package of public lands and recreation legislation designed to increase access to the outdoors, streamline and simplify land management processes, and improve America's recreation infrastructure. The legislation includes provisions to improve the permitting process for outfitters and guides who work on public lands, and it streamlines the process and expenses associated with obtaining special recreation permits. The bill includes a travel management provision that directs the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and U.S. Forest Service to make maps available to the public depicting where vehicles are allowed and where they are prohibited, as well as to update them periodically to ensure the maps do not become outdated. In carrying out this section, agencies are required to increase opportunities for motorized and non-motorized access and experiences on Federal land.
California Oceano Dunes OHVs: SEMA and its allies in the motorized recreation community are working to protect off-highway vehicle (OHV) usage at the Oceano Dunes State Vehicular Recreation Area (SRVA), which is California's only OHV park on the Pacific Ocean. It is located about two hours northwest of Los Angeles near San Luis Obispo. Oceano Dunes SVRA became a state park in 1974 and has been under threat of closure for many years, primarily by groups that object to motorized recreation based on environmental arguments that off-roading causes more airborne particulate matter (dust) and/or threatens plants and animals.
California State Parks and the California Coastal Commission (CCC) have been locked in a conflicting jurisdictional dispute over Oceano Dunes. The CCC contends that it has primacy with respect to environmental concerns, while State Parks cites a mandate from the state legislature to manage the area for OHV use. In response to the CCC passing a March 2021, measure to shut down OHV access within three years, SEMA and several other off-road groups have challenged the CCC decision in lawsuits filed in California State Superior Court for San Luis Obispo County. The court held a preliminary hearing in January, and a trial is scheduled for March 2023.
AUTO ENTHUSIAST'S HOLIDAY
National Collector Vehicle Appreciation Day: The 13th annual Collector Car Appreciation Day (CCAD) took place on Friday, July 8, 2022. Both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives introduced resolutions (H. Res. 1201/S. Res. 690) to focus attention on the vital role automotive restoration and collection plays in American society. Thousands of Americans gathered at car shows, cruise-ins, and other events to celebrate the nation's automotive heritage. Next year's celebration is set for July 14, 2023.
Several domestic and foreign jurisdictions recognized CCAD 2022. They include:
Louisiana: In 2014, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal signed into law a bill designating the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of the second weekend in July as Louisiana Collector Car Appreciation Weekend.
West Virginia: The West Virginia Legislature passed a House Concurrent Resolution designating the second Friday in July as CCAD in the state.
Wisconsin: The Wisconsin Assembly approved a Joint Resolution to annually designate the second Friday in July as Collector Vehicle Appreciation Day.
Canada: Many of the provincial governments issue annual proclamations to officially declare CCAD and/or Automotive Heritage Month, held concurrently each July. This year included British Columbia, Manitoba, Newfoundland and Labrador, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Saskatchewan.
Alaska—License Plate: Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy signed into law SEMA-supported legislation to allow the display of only a single, rear-mounted license plate for all passenger vehicles. Under the previous law, vehicles were required to display two license plates. The new law is estimated to save the state more than $300,000 per year.
Arizona—Restoration: Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed into law SEMA-supported legislation to allow full restoration of pre-1981 vehicles, including temporary removal of the vehicle identification number (VIN) when necessary. The new law allows for the removal and reinstallation of a VIN if the vehicle was manufactured before 1981 and if the removal and reinstallation is reasonably necessary for repair or restoration.
California—Automobile Cruising: The California legislature passed a SEMA-supported resolution celebrating the history and culture associated with automobile cruising. This resolution encourages local officials and law enforcement to work with local car clubs to conduct safe cruising events.
California—Ban on Sale of New ICE-Powered Cars: The California Air Resources Board (CARB) voted to finalize a SEMA-opposed rule to implement California Governor Gavin Newsom's 2020 executive order to phase out the sale of new diesel- or gas-powered cars in the state by 2035. The rule requires 35% of new cars, SUVs and small trucks sold to be zero-emissions starting in 2026, increasing to 68% in 2030 and 100% in 2035. In 2022, zero-emissions vehicles made up about 16% of new cars sold in California. The rule also sets durability, warranty, and other provisions on zero-emissions vehicles. The newly adopted regulations could lead to 17 other states that have often followed all or part of California's previous clean-car rules adopting similar proposals. The sale of used cars would not be affected under the proposal, and it would not force the current fleet of diesel- or gas-powered vehicles off the road.
Kansas—Antique Vehicles: Governor Laura Kelly signed into law SEMA-supported legislation to allow antique vehicles which are 60 years old or older the ability to forego a VIN inspection when applying for a title. The new law expands eligibility of these vehicles for certain titling procedures by allowing only a bill of sale as proof of ownership and an application. Prior to the new law, only antique vehicles with a model year of 1950 or earlier could forego the VIN inspection when applying for a title.
Kansas—Restoration: Governor Laura Kelly signed into law SEMA-supported legislation to allow full restoration of antique vehicles, including temporary removal of the vehicle identification number (VIN) when necessary. This bill allows for the removal and reinstallation of a VIN if it is reasonably necessary for repair or restoration. Previously, restorers who intentionally remove or alter a VIN, regardless of reason, were guilty of a felony and the vehicle was subject to seizure and destruction by law enforcement.
Maryland—Emissions: The Maryland legislature failed to advance SEMA-opposed legislation to enact a biennial $14 fee on motor vehicles that are exempt from the state's Vehicle Emissions Inspection Program, including historic vehicles and street rods.
Minnesota—Ethanol: The Minnesota legislature failed to advance two SEMA-opposed bills to increase the standard biofuel blend in gasoline to 15% ethanol (E15). One bill had an exemption for retailers who sell less than 500,000 gallons of gasoline/biofuel per year who are not equipped to store and dispense E15, while another bill had an exemption for retailers who sell less than 300,000 gallons of gasoline/biofuel per year.
New Hampshire—Exhaust: Governor Chris Sununu signed into law SEMA-supported legislation to allow the use of side-mounted exhaust on antique vehicles. The new law specifies exhaust discharge points (must be to the rear edge of either door if the vehicle has 2 doors and to the rear edge of either rear door if the vehicle has 4 doors) and such system directs exhaust gas away from the vehicle.
Oklahoma—Military Vehicles: Governor Kevin Stitt signed into law SEMA-supported legislation to allow the registration and titling of former military surplus vehicles for on-road use. The new law defines a military surplus vehicle as a vehicle less than 35 years old and was manufactured for use in either the United States Armed Forces or any country that was a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization at the time the vehicle was manufactured.
Pennsylvania—Motorsports: Governor Tom Wolf signed into law SEMA-supported legislation to create an exemption for motor vehicles or a motor vehicle combination from perceived "commercial" activity provided that the vehicle is being used to transport another vehicle to or from an amateur competitive event, whether or not the owner displays sponsorship markings.
Utah—Military Vehicles: Utah Governor Spencer Cox signed into law SEMA-supported legislation to exempt military vehicles from displaying a license plate. The new law requires a license plate to be carried inside the vehicle and ready for inspection by law enforcement upon request.
Virginia—YOM Plates: Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin signed into law SEMA-supported legislation expanding year of manufacture (YOM) license plates for vehicles registered as antiques to include plates manufactured in 1973 or thereafter. Prior to the new law, only vehicles manufactured in 1972 or earlier could display YOM plates with DMV approval.