LEGISLATIVE and TECHNICAL AFFAIRS
Law and Order
Michigan Historic Vehicles: Legislation has been introduced that would allow vehicles that display a Michigan historic vehicle plate or an authentic Michigan registration plate free access to state parks hosting a car show, classic-car cruise or other similar event. Generally, a Recreation Passport is available to Michigan-registered vehicles for $11 and is valid for the duration of the calendar year.
California Emissions: Legislation to allow an owner of a motor vehicle that is subject to the smog-check program to pay a $200 smog abatement fee in lieu of passing a smog test was not considered by committee before the legislature adjourned for the year. It may be considered in 2016. Under the bill, the vehicle would have to meet specified criteria in order to qualify. Under current law, the smog-check program requires inspection of motor vehicles upon initial registration, biennially upon renewal of registration, upon transfer of ownership, and in certain other circumstances. However, the law exempts certain vehicles from inspection, including those manufactured prior to the ’76 model year. This bill would allow the owner of a motor vehicle that is required to take a smog test to pay the abatement fee if the motor vehicle is 30 or more model years old; was manufactured during or after the ’76 model year; failed a smog test; and failed a subsequent smog test after necessary repairs were made.
Massachusetts Warranties: SEMA-supported legislation was introduced to require new-car dealers to provide purchasers with a written statement declaring that it is illegal for manufacturers or dealers to void a warranty or deny coverage because aftermarket or recycled parts were installed or because someone other than the dealer performed service. The bill was sent to the Joint Committee on Consumer Protection and Professional Licensure for consideration. The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act regulates warranties for the protection of consumers and provides that vehicle manufacturers may not deny warranty coverage based on the use of an aftermarket part alone. Consumers are generally unaware of the rights afforded them under the law, and many are forced to absorb the costs for repairs that were properly covered under the warranty. This measure would simply provide that consumers be made aware in 10-point boldface type of these basic rights.
Pennsylvania Ethanol: A legislative proposal to remove the requirement that gasoline offered for sale in the state contain a percentage of ethanol was approved by an overwhelming margin in the House of Representatives and will now be sent to the Senate Environmental Resources & Energy Committee for consideration. Currently, the state requires that “All gasoline sold or offered for sale to ultimate consumers in this Commonwealth must contain at least 10% cellulosic ethanol by volume….”
Pennsylvania Emissions: Legislation has been reintroduced to extend the emissions-inspection exemption to vehicles never before registered in the state or any other jurisdiction for 10 years from the date of original registration. Current law exempts only new vehicles that have fewer than 5,000 miles on their odometers for one year after their first registrations. The bill still requires that the newest 10 model-year vehicles be subject to visual anti-tampering inspections for the presence of emissions-control components installed on the vehicle by manufacturers.
Michigan Registration Fees: A bill to increase vehicle registration tax rates by approximately 20% was approved by the legislature and signed into law by Governor Rick Snyder. The increases under the new law apply to all currently registered vehicles as well as to new registrations.
Copyright Office Vehicle Modification Exemption: The U.S. Copyright Office issued a rule allowing vehicle owners to perform vehicle diagnosis, repair and modification without fear of prosecution under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). However, the Copyright Office declined to provide the exemption to third parties who diagnose, repair or modify a vehicle on behalf of the vehicle owner. The Copyright Office concluded that extending the reach of an exemption to cover third parties requires a legislative amendment by Congress. Access to a vehicle’s telematics or entertainment system was also specifically excluded from the exemption. Earlier this year, in support of the industry and consumers, SEMA provided comments to the Copyright Office seeking an exemption from the DMCA for circumvention of controls on vehicle software for the purpose of vehicle diagnosis, repair or modification by the vehicle owner. SEMA maintains that the right to access vehicle systems to utilize, maintain and upgrade vehicles is legal as fair use under copyright law, as are activities undertaken to achieve interoperability with aftermarket products. The DMCA was enacted in 1998 and prohibits the circumvention of measures put in place by a copyright owner to protect copyrighted works. The law also includes a provision allowing the Copyright Office to grant exemptions from this anti-circumvention provision, and the exemption for vehicle repair, diagnosis or modification was granted under this provision.
Health Care: The U.S. Congress passed legislation to relieve employers with 51 to 100 employees from additional burdens under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The ACA was scheduled to expand to 100 employees from the current level of 50 employees. The expansion could have the unintended effect of making it more difficult for employers to find affordable premiums at those lower levels. Employers with 50 or more full-time workers are required to offer insurance, while it is voluntary for small companies that employ fewer than 50 full-time employees. President Obama signed the bill into law.
Ozone Standard: The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lowered the ozone pollution standard limit to 70 parts per billion (ppb) from the current 75 ppb standard. Ozone is created by emissions such as nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds. The EPA contends that the stricter standard is needed to address asthma and other respiratory problems it associates with exposure to ground-level ozone, also known as smog. The deadlines for implementation will be staggered over many years, based on whether a region is already complying with the current rule or is still struggling to meet the 1997 standard of 84 ppb. Subject to EPA oversight, states and local municipalities would decide which pollution control methods to pursue to bring their region into compliance. While there are many ozone contributors, stationary sources such as utilities, factories and refineries would be a primary target for requiring new pollution-control measures.