LEGISLATIVE AND TECHNICAL AFFAIRS
Law and Order
Arizona Miles-Traveled Tax: Legislation has been introduced to raise gas taxes and require a study of a road-usage tax. The bill has been assigned to both the Transportation and Finance Committees. The measure would also require a study of a potential pilot program. In addition to creating privacy concerns, the bill seeks to penalize national efforts to create a more fuel-efficient vehicle fleet by taxing drivers based on vehicle mileage. As gas tax revenues decrease due to hybrid and electric vehicle ownership, states are looking for new sources of funding for pet projects.
Maryland Historic Vehicles: In a conversation with the Maryland State Police, SEMA has learned that legislation to revise the state’s historic-vehicle registration requirements is only intended to subject historic vehicles of model-year ’86 and later to equipment repair orders. These repair orders would be issued only for vehicle safety equipment that is in disrepair and would require a subsequent inspection to determine that the repair had been effected. The bill does not subject these vehicles to periodic inspections, as previously believed. Amendments are being drafted to clarify any misconceptions of the intent. The bill would still prohibit the use of historic vehicles for employment, transportation to employment or school and for commercial purposes. However, the amendments will provide specific use for maintenance purposes. Use for employment, school and commercial purposes were always generally understood to be prohibited under the current law.
California Labeling: SEMA-opposed legislation was defeated that would have required manufacturers of designated consumer products, including automotive products, to post ingredients on the product label and online on the manufacturer’s website. As originally drafted, the bill would have made it a crime to manufacture, distribute and sell automotive products after January 1, 2017, that did not have a label listing ingredients and a manufacturer web-page address at which product ingredient information could also be found. The bill required only the 20 most prevalent ingredients to be listed on the label but required all ingredients to be listed on the company’s website. The measure applied to all chemically formulated products for maintaining the appearance of a vehicle, including products for washing, waxing, polishing, cleaning or treating the exterior or interior surfaces of a vehicle but excluding automotive paint and paint-repair products. SEMA believes that the bill was an unnecessary burden on sellers of automotive products because the state’s Proposition 65 already requires that warnings be included on certain consumer products containing more than trace amounts of harmful chemicals.
Hawaii Single Plate: Legislation has been introduced to allow the issuance to certain vehicles of only a single license plate. The bill would allow the owner of any vehicle containing safety equipment originally installed by the vehicle manufacturer that would be or is impaired by a front number plate to request one number plate. Under the measure, the director of finance would adopt rules specifying the vehicles with safety equipment originally installed by the vehicle manufacturer.
Hawaii Noise Emissions: Legislation has been introduced to allow the state director of transportation to adopt regulations to establish permissible noise-emission levels for motor vehicles in accordance with approved U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards. The bill will be considered by the House Transportation Committee. The bill fails to recognize that the U.S. EPA has no noise-emissions standards for passenger cars and trucks, only for motorcycles. Further, the bill provides no objective test by which vehicles would be tested.
Idaho Single License Plate: Legislation has been introduced in the Idaho State Senate to require the issuance of only a single license plate for motor vehicles. The bill would save money, conserve resources and bring Idaho in line with other states that have moved to a single-plate requirement.
Iowa Single License Plate: Legislation has been reintroduced in Iowa to require the issuance of only a single license plate for motor vehicles. The bill, favored by state hobbyists, requires that the single registration plate be attached on the rear of the vehicle.
Kentucky OHV Access: Legislation has been introduced to allow motorized recreational vehicles such as all-terrain vehicles, utility task vehicles and recreational off-highway vehicles access to the Pine Mountain Trail. The bill would also allow these vehicles on the portion of any other trail of Breaks Interstate Park that falls within the boundary of Kentucky. The bill allows the Parks Commission to regulate the use of motorized recreational vehicles only to the extent necessary to ensure safety on the trail.
Missouri Historic Trailers: Legislation has been introduced to allow a camping or fifth-wheel trailer more than 25 years old to be permanently registered for a $25 fee. The bill also allows those possessing a year-of-manufacture license plate more than 25 years old to use the plate as a historic trailer plate if the configuration of letters and numbers has not been issued to someone else. Under the bill, the owner of the historic trailer must keep the certificate of registration in the trailer at all times.
New Hampshire Antique Trailers: Legislation was approved by the New Hampshire House to eliminate the requirement that antique trailers have only one axle to qualify for antique trailer plates. The bill would lower the annual registration fee for the approximately 15,000 of these multi-axle trailers to $6. New Hampshire law allows the owner of an antique trailer to use a registration plate that was issued in the same year that the antique trailer was manufactured. The bill will next be considered by the Senate.
New Hampshire Road-Usage Fee: Legislation to establish a road-usage fee for motor vehicles registered to travel on state roads remains pending in the House Public Works and Highway Committee. Under the bill, the fee would be based on the equivalent miles per gallon of the vehicle and collected at the time of annual registration of the vehicle. The measure would impose its harshest penalties on those vehicles that have the highest miles-per-gallon rating, with a maximum tax of $149.85.
New Hampshire OHV Access: Legislation to reestablish the authority of the Bureau of Trails to permit larger off-highway recreational vehicles at Jericho Mountain State Park remains pending in the House Resources, Recreation and Development Committee. The bill was considered earlier this year.
New Jersey Street Rods/Custom Vehicles: A version of SEMA-model legislation that would create a vehicle registration classification for street rods and replica custom vehicles and provide for special license plates for these vehicles was reintroduced in the New Jersey Assembly. The bill defines a street rod as an altered vehicle manufactured before 1948 and a custom as an altered vehicle at least 25 years old and manufactured after 1948. The bill allows kit cars and replica vehicles to be assigned certificates of title bearing the same model-year designation the body of the vehicle most closely resembles.
New Jersey Single Plate: Legislation has been reintroduced to require the issuance of only a single license plate for motor vehicles. The bill allows owners who were issued two license plates prior to the enactment and effective date of the bill to return one of the plates to the Motor Vehicle Commission.
Tennessee New-Car Emissions: Legislation to extend the emissions inspection exemption for new cars was approved by the Senate in a vote by all members. Under the bill, all vehicles three years old and newer would be excused regardless of mileage. Current law exempts only new motor vehicles being registered for the first time or one year from initial registration. The bill will next be considered in the House.
Washington Single Plate: Legislation has been introduced to allow the issuance of only a single rear-mounted license plate for vehicles originally manufactured without an installed bracket, device or other means to display and secure a license plate on the front of the vehicle.
West Virginia Exhaust Systems: SEMA-model legislation that would allow West Virginia’s vehicle hobbyists to install and use aftermarket exhaust systems that meet a 95-decibel limit was reintroduced for the 2016 legislative session. Current West Virginia law allows only a muffler originally installed by the manufacturer or an equivalent.
West Virginia Collector Car Appreciation Day: Thanks to the efforts of Delegate Gary Howell, a West Virginia House Concurrent Resolution has been introduced to designate the second Friday in July as West Virginia Collector Car Appreciation Day. For the past six years, the U.S. Senate has passed a similar resolution, at SEMA’s request, to acknowledge the day’s significance in raising awareness of the vital role automotive restoration and collection plays in American society.
Regulatory Reform: The U.S. House of Representatives passed a SEMA-supported bill to reduce burdensome regulations on business owners and job creators. The Searching for and Cutting Regulations that are Unnecessarily Burdensome Act (SCRUB Act) establishes a blue-ribbon committee to identify obsolete and unnecessary regulations in addition to those that conflict with state and local law. The committee would review major rules that have an annual economic impact of more than $100 million, rules that are 15 years old or older, and regulations that result in considerable paperwork burdens. There has been no action to date on a companion bill in the
Ethanol Labelling: The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) amended its fuel regulations to require that more-specific information be posted at the pump regarding the amount of ethanol that has been added to gasoline at levels above 10% (E10). First established in 1979, the FTC’s Fuel Rating Rule specifies methods for rating and certifying fuel along with labeling requirements. As of July, ethanol content ranging from 11% to 83% will be called Ethanol Flex Fuels, and retailers must post labels with either the exact ethanol concentrations or an amount rounded to the nearest multiple of 10 for mid-level blends (11% to 50%). For high-level blends, the label may reference the exact amount, round to the nearest multiple of 10, or label the fuel as “51% to 83% Ethanol.” The ethanol flex-fuel labels must include the text “Use Only in Flex-Fuel Vehicles/May Harm Other Engines.”
Safety Recalls: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is seeking public comment on ways to more quickly fix vehicles and motor vehicle equipment that are subject to safety or defect recalls. Improvements could include notifying owners via e-mail instead of relying on first-class mail and requiring follow-up notifications if the owner took no action. NHTSA will seek to identify differences in the marketplace (online versus brick-and-mortar sales) and opportunities to better incorporate state vehicle registration databases in the recall process.
Design Patents: The U.S. House of Representatives’ Intellectual Property Subcommittee held a hearing on a bill that would reduce the length of design patents for automotive crash parts from 14 years to 30 months. A design patent protects the unique visual ornamental characteristics of a product rather than its structure or function. Crash parts include fenders, hoods, lights, side mirrors and quarter panels. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has ruled that such parts produced by the automakers are eligible for design patent registration. The legislation faces considerable opposition in both the House and the Senate.
Trade Secrets: In an effort to protect U.S. companies against intellectual property theft, the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee passed a bill that enables companies to protect their trade secrets in federal court. The absence of a uniform federal standard has forced companies to navigate a patchwork of different laws when bringing trade-secret cases in state court. While the U.S. Department of Justice has the power to pursue criminal penalties against companies and individuals that illegally obtain trade secrets, the Department’s backlog of cases has not provided companies with sufficient protection. The SEMA-supported Defend Trade Secrets Act remedies this problem, providing a uniform standard for companies looking to defend their intellectual property rights in federal court. The bill proceeds to the Senate floor.
Portable Fuel Containers: The California Air Resources Board (CARB) has proposed revisions to its portable fuel container (PFC) rules. The rules seek to reduce reactive organic gas emissions as fuel vapor or in spillage events. The primary change is to require that PFCs be certified to fuel containing 10% ethanol (E10), as is the case with current rules issued by the EPA. CARB is also seeking to more closely mesh its rules with existing EPA regulations so that PRC manufacturers could compile one set of certification data that satisfies both EPA and CARB rules.
Utah Public Lands Initiative: Draft legislation called the Public Lands Initiative (PLI) has been released. The PLI would finalize land-use designations for more than 18 million acres of land in seven eastern and southern Utah counties. Spearheaded by U.S. House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) and Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT), the proposal is the product of three years of work and more than 1,200 meetings with divergent stakeholder groups, including local communities, off-road groups, environmentalists, logging, grazing, energy interests, etc. Highlights include the motorized recreation zones in San Juan and Grand Counties encompassing more than 375,000 acres, along with a 93-mile red rock OHV trail connecting towns in Emery, Grand and San Juan Counties. SEMA is reviewing the draft bill to confirm that any unprotected existing trails were replaced with trails of equal or better value.