2023: The Year in Review
Preventing the modification of one's own ride. Questioning the independent repair of component failures. Bans on certain powerplants and fuels. Even outlawing the sale of certain new motor vehicles statewide. How can these examples be considerations pondered by those currently in power? And those are only a handful of the major freedoms now at stake across this great land.
With each passing moment, politicians elected to represent us are deciding long-term rulings with profound consequences. While the automotive rights of various regions may seem safe from becoming targets, think again. Ideas that catch on often appear in multiple places within a short time, for better and for worse. Word in lawmaking circles often travels quickly—to a bureaucrat, a solution from afar might offer results at home. Imagine a tidal wave of popularity on a hot-button topic coming from the coastlines and sweeping inland toward the nation's Heartland. Such an onslaught must be avoided.
With so much at stake, what is our community's best defense? Ourselves, for starters. Beyond, anyone seeking to ensure that our choice of driving head-turning creations remains open. Know somebody needing a good cause to fight? Invite those interested into our fold, encourage action, and keep passing the torch! Want some reinforcement? The following recap features highlights from the past year. Let's carry onward together in the 2024 legislative sessions.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed the "Preserving Choice in Vehicle Purchases Act" (H.R. 1435) with bipartisan support (222 to 190). The SEMA-supported bill from Rep. John Joyce (R-PA) prohibits the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from issuing a waiver to the California Air Resources Board (CARB) for regulations that would ban the sale of new motor vehicles with internal combustion engines (ICE) in the state by 2035. To date, 14 out of 17 CARB states have begun adopting regulations to follow California's Zero Emissions Vehicles (ZEV) mandate. The existing ZEV regulations are so onerous that Stellantis, a member of the Big Three, has stopped shipping gas-powered Jeeps to dealers in those states and customers wanting gas-powered vehicles must place a special order.
U.S. Senator Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), the co-chair of the Congressional Automotive Performance and Motorsports Caucus, introduced S. 2090, a Senate companion bill to H.R. 1435 (which includes the same bill text). The House and Senate versions of the Preserving Choice in Vehicle Purchases Act now await consideration in the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. For more information on these efforts, visit sema.org/advocacy/ice-bans.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed the "Choice in Automobile Retail Sales (CARS) Act," H.R. 4468, with bipartisan support (221 to 197). The SAN-supported bill would prohibit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from finalizing the agency's proposed federal emissions standards for light- and medium-duty motor vehicles model years '27 to '32, which intends for electric vehicles (EVs) to make up 67% of all new vehicles sales by 2032. The CARS Act also prevents future EPA motor-vehicle emissions regulations that would mandate certain technologies or limit the availability of vehicles based on engine type.
Most Americans do not support the Biden Administration's rush to electrify motor vehicles. The American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers' national survey that found 60% of likely voters oppose the EPA's proposed EV mandates. A further breakdown of likely voters found that the overwhelming majority of Republicans (87%) and Independents (61%) oppose the EPA's de facto internal combustion engine (ICE) ban, while Democrats are split on the matter (41% support, 32% oppose 27% undecided).
H.R. 4468 now awaits consideration in the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee along with the bipartisan companion legislation of the CARS Act, S. 3094, introduced by U.S. Senators Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Pete Ricketts (R-NE).
The U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Innovation, Data, and Commerce passed H.R. 906, "Right to Equitable and Professional Auto Industry Repair (REPAIR) Act." The subcommittee held off on voting on amendments, as Rep. Neal Dunn (R-FL) agreed to work with committee members to amend the bill prior to an Energy & Commerce full-committee vote. The SAN-supported REPAIR Act can now be considered by the Energy & Commerce Committee. More than 48 bipartisan U.S. House members support the REPAIR Act as co-sponsors of the bill, which is designed to provide choice, fairness and safety in the vehicle repair market. The REPAIR Act will:
- Preserve consumer access to high-quality, affordable vehicle repair by ensuring that vehicle owners and their repairers of choice have access to necessary repair and maintenance tools and data as vehicles continue to become more advanced.
- Ensure cybersecurity by allowing vehicle manufacturers to secure vehicle-generated data and requiring the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to develop standards for how vehicle-generated data necessary for repair can be accessed securely.
- Provide transparency for consumers by requiring vehicle owners to be informed that they can choose where and how to get their vehicle repaired.
- Create a stakeholder advisory committee and provide them with the statutory authority to provide recommendations to the FTC on how to address emerging barriers to vehicle repair and maintenance.
- Provide ongoing enforcement by establishing a process for consumers and independent repair facilities to file complaints with the FTC regarding alleged violations of the requirements in the bill and a requirement that the FTC act within five months of a claim.
The REPAIR Act is important to repair and replacement businesses, although SEMA still has more work to do to ensure that the legislation extends to protect the right to modify. SEMA is committed to protecting the right to modify vehicles by prohibiting automakers from locking down ECUs and ensuring aftermarket companies have access to the information needed to recalibrate vehicles with advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) after they have been modified.
Motorsports Fairness and Permanency Act:
U.S. Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and Todd Young (R-IN) introduced S. 2462, the Motorsports Fairness and Permanency Act. The SEMA-supported, bipartisan bill would provide certainty to racing facility owners about long-term investments by amending the Federal Tax Code to make permanent the seven-year cost recovery period for investments in motorsports entertainment complexes. Currently, this tax incentive expires at the end of 2025.
Companion legislation, H.R. 2696, was introduced earlier this year in the House of Representatives by U.S. Representatives Claudia Tenney (R-NY) and Mike Thompson (D-CA), along with seven bipartisan co-sponsors. The bill would allow racetracks nationwide to plan long-term improvements and safety updates. In 2004, Congress codified a temporary provision that defined "motorsports entertainment complex," and a 2020 appropriations law extended the accelerated depreciation of investments through December 2025.
Accelerated depreciation of investments in a motorsports entertainment complex applies to capital expenditures in a facility's ticket booths, race track surfaces, suites and hospitality facilities, grandstands and viewing structures, props, walls, facilities that support the delivery of entertainment services, other special-purpose structures, facades, shop interiors, and buildings in addition to support facilities (including food and beverage retailing, souvenir vending, and other non-lodging accommodations), parking lots, sidewalks, bridges, fences, and landscaping.
AUTO ENTHUSIAST'S HOLIDAY
National Collector Vehicle Appreciation Day:
The 14th annual Collector Car Appreciation Day (CCAD) took place on Friday, July 14, 2023. Both the U.S. Senate and the House of Representatives introduced resolutions (H. Res. 573/S. Res. 300) 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.
Several domestic and foreign jurisdictions recognized CCAD 2023. 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, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, and Saskatchewan.
California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law a SEMA-supported bill to allow automobile cruising activities to return statewide. Previously, local authorities were authorized to pass ordinances that regulate or prohibit cruising. Authored by Assembly Member David Alvarez (D-San Diego), this effort follows a resolution approved by the legislature last year to celebrate the history and culture of automobile cruising and encourage local officials and law enforcement to work with local car clubs to conduct safe cruising events.
California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law a SEMA-supported bill that, among other provisions, creates a centralized testing network for older vehicles, ensuring access to necessary emissions testing at a reasonable cost to the consumer. Owners of vehicles subject to the state's smog check (model year 1976 and newer) but not equipped with an OBD-II often struggle to find testing facilities that offer the required BAR-97 emissions test at a reasonable price. The BAR-97 test is an older testing technology that has been gradually phased out in favor of newer, more advanced testing methods such as OBD testing and emissions equipment inspections. As a result, some independent testing stations may have discontinued the BAR-97 test in favor of these newer methods, which are often quicker and easier to administer.
Connecticut—Internal Combustion Engines:
In a significant development, Governor Ned Lamont withdrew a SAN-opposed regulation that would have required the state to adopt California's strict motor vehicle emissions laws and outlaw the sale of new gas- and diesel-powered cars beginning in 2035. The move to withdraw the regulation came in the wake of bipartisan opposition from state lawmakers, with the governor acknowledging that the proposal lacked sufficient support to pass the legislature's Regulation Review Committee. Governor Lamont, however, has not abandoned the pursuit of more stringent emission standards. He has indicated that he will explore alternative avenues to address the issue, either by seeking legislative action in 2024 or potentially calling a special session in 2023.
Lawmakers in Hawaii killed a pair of SEMA-opposed bills that would have unfairly reformed enforcement of the state's exhaust noise laws, including increased penalties for offenders. Hawaii currently prohibits mufflers that "noticeably increase" a vehicle's noise and mandates that mufflers must be identical to their factory setting. The current law is as unenforceable as it is vague, subjective and unfair.
Maine—Right to Repair:
Maine voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure requiring automakers to standardize vehicle onboard diagnostic systems and make them remotely accessible to owners and independent repair shops. The initiative will go into effect in 2024 and requires automakers producing vehicles that include a telematics system to offer an owner-authorized access platform, whereby owners can access their vehicle's mechanical data and through a mobile app. The measure also requires vehicle manufacturers to give vehicle owners and independent repair shops the same access to diagnostic tools that they give to their authorized dealers and service centers.
New Hampshire—ZEV Mandate:
Lawmakers in New Hampshire killed SEMA-opposed legislation which would have required the Granite State to adopt California's low- and zero-emissions motor-vehicle standards and ban the sale of new gas- and diesel-powered motor vehicles starting in 2035. SEMA believes that New Hampshire's residents, not the government, should decide what vehicles are best for them and their families.
New Mexico—Exhaust Noise:
Lawmakers in New Mexico killed SEMA-opposed legislation that would have banned exhaust-system modifications that make a vehicle louder than stock. SEMA supports setting a single, objective standard for measuring a vehicle's sound output.
New Mexico—License Plates:
The New Mexico legislature failed to pass SEMA-opposed bills to require front and rear license plates on all vehicles before the end of its legislative session.
North Carolina—Internal Combustion Engines:
North Carolina lawmakers passed SEMA-supported legislation that included amendments in its annual budget prohibiting the state from adopting and enforcing a ban on the sale of new internal combustion engine vehicles. Following his announcement, Governor Roy Cooper let the budget become law without his signature.
Ohio—Internal Combustion Engines:
Governor Mike DeWine signed SEMA-supported legislation that safeguards consumers’ right to choose the vehicles that best suit their needs, regardless of fuel type. The new law prohibits any state or local government entity from restricting the use or sale of motor vehicles based on their power source, including internal combustion engines.
Governor Bill Lee signed SEMA-supported legislation that reforms the state's motor-vehicle noise laws. Based on SEMA's model legislation, the new law implements a fair and objective method for determining compliance with the law, replacing a system that relies on subjective judgments on whether an exhaust system is too loud.
Texas—Internal Combustion Engines:
Governor Greg Abbott signed into law SEMA-supported legislation to ensure consumer choice of vehicle power plants and fuel. The new law will prevent a county or other local government in the state from limiting access to certain types of power sources.
West Virginia—Antique Fleet:
West Virginia Governor Jim Justice signed into law the SEMA-supported "Antique Fleet" plate program, whereby the owner of five or more antique vehicles can use a single registration plate. The owner must register every antique vehicle upon which the plate will be displayed. The bill was sponsored by Del. Gary Howell, who is chairman emeritus of SEMA's State Automotive Enthusiast Leadership Caucus.
West Virginia Governor Jim Justice signed into law SEMA-supported legislation establishing the Motorsport Responsibility Act, defining areas of responsibility and assumed risks by participants for recreational and commercial motorsports facilities.
West Virginia's Governor Jim Justice signed into law a SEMA-supported tax reform bill that includes a 100% rebate on the state's property tax on cars, trucks and ATVs. This action comes after West Virginians voted down a 2022 tax reform ballot initiative (Amendment 2) that would have given state lawmakers the power to exempt cars, trucks and ATVs from personal property taxes. Lawmakers do not have this authority. SEMA-supported bills to eliminate property taxes on classic vehicles have been ruled unconstitutional in previous years. This legislation is no longer necessary, thanks to Governor Justice and the General Assembly.