U.S. Representative Patrick McHenry Goes One-on-One With SEMA News

SEMA News—May 2017


By Eric Snyder

U.S. Representative Patrick McHenry Goes One-on-One With SEMA News

The Inside Scoop on the RPM Act

Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) visits Steele Rubber Products in Denver, North Carolina. From left: Human Resources Manager Debbie Lail, Rep. McHenry, President Matt Agosta and Plant Manager John Dancoff.

U.S. Representative Patrick McHenry (R-NC) is a native North Carolinian and the son of a lawn-care business owner, so it’s no coincidence that he is a key defender of both racing and small businesses. When you look at Rep. McHenry’s public career, it’s clear that he has been on the fast track.

After graduating from Belmont Abbey College in Belmont, North Carolina, McHenry worked on President George W. Bush’s presidential campaign in 2000 and served in his administration as an advisor to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor. In 2002, he moved back to the Tar Heel State and served one term in the North Carolina state legislature before being elected to the U.S. Congress at the age of 29.

Rep. McHenry has quickly risen up the ranks and distinguished himself as a leader in the U.S. House of Representatives. The congressman has never voted for a tax increase and, as vice chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, he has helped oversee issues pertaining to the economy, the banking system, housing, insurance, and securities and exchanges.

A long-standing member of the Congressional Automotive Performance and Motorsports Caucus, McHenry contacted SEMA’s Washington office upon hearing about the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) efforts to regulate race parts and prohibit motor vehicles from being converted for racing. Within a matter of days, he introduced the Recognizing the Protection of Motorsports (RPM) Act, which clarifies that it is legal for companies to manufacture, sell, distribute and install race parts that modify the emissions system of a car, truck or motorcycle that is being converted for race use only.

SEMA News recently interviewed the congressman and discussed the RPM Act and other topics of importance to SEMA members and the industry.

SEMA News: What was your first car?

Patrick McHenry: My first car was a Nissan Sentra that had been passed down to me by my sister after she had totaled it. Being the youngest of five kids, I was used to the hand-me-downs and this was no different.

SN: How did you get involved in the fight to protect racing and the people who make a living producing, selling and installing race parts?

PM: Racing has long been a way of life throughout the state of North Carolina, and the district I represent in the western part of the state is no different. Both as a pastime enjoyed by amateur weekend racers and as an industry employing many throughout my district, racing is a big deal in our area.

It was actually some of those employed in the industry—constituents of mine from both Gastonia and Hickory, North Carolina—who first made me aware of the EPA’s efforts to regulate auto racing in early 2016. Both constituents made clear the danger this regulation posed to their businesses and their livelihoods. After researching the regulation, I believed that legislative action was the only way to stop this EPA overreach, and introduced the RPM Act to stop it.

SN: As you mentioned, racing is a hobby for many. For others, it’s a career. Tell us a little more about the racing and the motorsports parts industry in your district.

PM: North Carolina’s 10th congressional district stretches from the suburbs of Charlotte in the east all the way to Asheville and the Blue Ridge Mountains in the west, and racing is a big part of the culture in North Carolina. My district is home to six racetracks that employ many in my district, from the owners and operators of the tracks to vendors who sell food and souvenirs.

The 10th district is also home to a number of small businesses and companies that manufacture, distribute and sell race and performance products. One of those is Steele Rubber Products, which I’ve visited on two separate occasions. Steele supplies a number of race teams with spring rubbers for competition. While Steele wouldn’t be subject to penalties under the EPA’s new interpretation of the law, the company’s race product sales would be negatively impacted. This is true of all those in the 10th district and throughout the state and nation who operate in this
popular industry.

Rep. McHenry discusses the importance of passing the RPM Act at the 2016 SEMA Washington Rally.

SN: There has been a great deal of controversy surrounding the EPA’s position on race modifications. The agency has thoroughly confused racers, fans and the industry. What happened?

PM: The EPA issued a proposed rule in 2015 that made it illegal to convert a vehicle for racing if its emission system is modified and taken out of compliance from its stock configuration. It drafted this rule without soliciting input from the motorsports community—catching racers and parts manufacturers off guard. This is no way to formulate a regulation.

While the Clean Air Act authorizes the government to regulate the emissions of vehicles, Congress never intended for the EPA to regulate vehicles that are modified for use on closed racetracks. In 1990, Congress reinforced this exemption when it authorized the EPA to regulate non-road vehicles but exempted race vehicles.

While the EPA removed the race modification provision from the final rulemaking last summer, it refused to back away from the notion that it has always interpreted the law as prohibiting emissions modifications to converted race vehicles that are used exclusively on the track. The EPA’s position doesn’t pass the smell test, which is why I introduced the RPM Act with the goal of settling this issue once and for all.

SN: Last October, you put on a racing suit and got behind the wheel of a dirt late model at the East Lincoln Speedway in Stanley, North Carolina. Tell us what it was like to hit the track.

PM: First off, it was nothing like driving my normal car on the streets of western North Carolina. The car I drove was a different beast entirely. The laps I took at East Lincoln were my first time driving on a dirt track, and it was a unique experience, as you are both adapting to driving on dirt and trying to stay away from the walls. It was an amazing challenge and gave me a new perspective when I watch races on Saturday nights.

SN: For many small-business owners, federal regulations have become overly burdensome. We are encouraged to see that the U.S. House of Representatives has made regulatory reform a top priority.

  SEMA PAC President’s Club Spotlight: Chris Douglas

Chris Douglas is the vice president of marketing for COMP Performance Group, which is based in Memphis, Tennessee. Douglas joined the SEMA PAC President’s Club in 2016 and currently serves on SEMA’s Board of Directors.

“As a lifelong enthusiast and the father of two young enthusiasts, I view the work of the SEMA PAC as ‘mission critical’ to the future of industry,” Douglas said. “It’s imperative that we have a strong, unified voice in Washington, D.C., to ensure that regulatory and legislative policies provide us an opportunity to prosper. The truth is that nobody will champion our cause in our nation’s capital without the SEMA PAC, and the industry we all love will suffer. I urge all members to support the SEMA PAC, as our future is at stake. Collectively, we can and will ensure that our industry thrives for generations
to come.”

For more information on SEMA PAC, contact SEMA PAC and Congressional Relations Director Christian Robinson by phone at 202-751-8507 or email at christianr@sema.org.

PM: Over the last eight years, small business owners had to contend with a regulatory onslaught. Unilateral actions from the federal bureaucracy killed jobs and drove up the prices Americans pay for everyday goods and services. It’s time small businesses and other job creators received a reprieve. Earlier this year, the House of Representatives took an important step to slow these regulations with passage of the REINS Act—a bill that requires any regulation with an economic impact more than $100 million to be submitted to Congress for approval. I was proud to support this simple, common-sense measure that brings accountability to the regulatory process. Now it’s time for the Senate to pass and President Trump sign this vitally important bill.

But we will not stop there. President Trump made reducing federal regulations one of the main pillars of his candidacy and House Republicans remain committed to working with him to achieve that goal. Personally, I’ve worked tirelessly to reduce regulations that strangle small business capital formation. Small businesses are America’s true job creators and we must ensure our regulatory climate is one that encourages their growth and success.

SN: As Chief Deputy Whip, we imagine you find yourself quite busy. For all who aren’t familiar with the hierarchy of leadership positions in the U.S. House of Representatives, tell us what the role of Chief Deputy Whip entails. What’s a typical day for you?

PM: That is actually one of the biggest challenges: there is no such thing as a typical day. As the Chief Deputy Whip I serve as the COO of the House whip operation. Each day I work closely with Majority Whip Steve Scalise meeting with our members and discussing our conservative policy agenda. We work to educate members and get their input so we can ensure that every bill that comes to the House floor has the support it needs to pass the House and hopefully become law.

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