With legislatures all over the country adjourning for the year, some may see the last part of the summer as a more relaxed time on the legislative front. But just because some people are calling it quits for the year doesn’t mean that the Specialty Equipment Market Association is taking any breaks from fighting for the off-road hobby and its enthusiasts. Check out this month’s SEMA Law & Order update below!
The off-road community has seen quite a few bills and laws presented in their favor and against them this year, but as the majority of legislatures around the country adjourn for the year, off-road enthusiasts can take a big sign of relief as many of the pro-hobbiest movements have resulted in helpful laws and the maintenance of national off-road areas.
One of these movements had taken on the subject of adding the word “National” to the Johnson Valley Off Highway Vehicle Recreation Area’s title to show the area’s national significance. With the help of SEMA, the U.S. House of Representatives has passed the bill to extend the title for national recognition, giving the more than 96,000 acres of property still maintained by the Bureau of Land Management for off-road recreational purposes even more significance.
Another movement SEMA is backing is one that would maintain the ability for off-road enthusiasts to continue to use North Carolina’s Cape Lookout National Seashore for off-highway recreational purposes. Under the recent Draft Environmental Impact Statement from the National Park Service NPS, four more off-road friendly suggestions have been laid out to maintain some level of OHV use of the seashore in the future, while another option is for the NPS to completely shut the seashore down to OHV use. SEMA is working with legislators and the NPS to see if all parties can come to an agreement that would not only support the maintenance of the seashore, but also the interests of off-road enthusiasts.
Another national update you should be aware of is the National Monument designation given to the Organ Mountains-Desert Peaks area in southern New Mexico. While this designation does not close any roads or trails for motorized vehicles, it does prohibit the the construction or creation of new roads and trails. SEMA is currently working with national legislators to help guarantee public participation in declaring areas National Monuments so that all interests can be represented. The U.S. House of Representatives has already passed a bill that aims for this guarantee and SEMA remains in support of the bill as it undergoes consideration by Congress.
In Delaware, reconstructed vehicles, or vehicles created by using alternative essential components from other vehicle makes and models, or original vehicles modified significantly by adding or removing essential components, age 25 years or older are now exempt from emission testing. Exempt vehicles must still meet certain safety and anti-tampering requirements based on the vehicle’s declared model year, however.
More classic off-road vehicle owners in New Hampshire will now be able to run year-of-manufacture plates on their vehicle following the enactment of a law making year-of-manufacture plates legal on all vehicles manufactured in 1975 or earlier. Previously, only vehicles manufactured before 1961 were able to run year-of-manufacture plates.
Good news comes out of Hawaii this month as a bill aiming to set up inspection facilities to test aftermarket or modified exhaust systems for noise levels presumed to be above factory standards died when the state’s legislature adjourned for the year. A similar bill in Vermont, which would have set “subjective” noise level limits on modified or aftermarket exhaust systems, also died when legislators adjourned for the year.
Minnesotans are also getting good news as a bill aiming to put a pilot program into place to assess a possible mileage tax program died when legislators adjourned in the state. If passed, this bill would have allowed a number of vehicle owners to be taxed based on how many miles they drove their vehicles to see if a similar program could help recoup taxes being lost from gas tax revenues due to more electronic and hybrid vehicles being on the road.
Looking into the future, off-road enthusiast should know that starting this month, all automotive manufacturers must submit recall reports and any associated documents through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) website. Documents necessary to report include injuries, warranty claims, property damage claims and consumer complaints. The idea behind this is for the NHTSA to have information that could result in or point to future vehicle recalls faster than some recalls have been made in the past.
You should also know that as of January 1, 2016, Minnesota will make the sale, distribution or installation of wheel weights containing lead or mercury illegal. This law will also require the proper disposal of all removed lead or mercury-based wheel weights.
While automotive manufacturers no longer use wheel weights containing lead, they can still be produced and used in the majority of states across the country. However, states like Washington, New York, and California already have laws in place making the potentially hazardous (if they fall off and have any particles come off and enter the soil or ground water) wheel weights.
The off-road community continues to grow and with that comes more responsibility for your hobby. Be sure to stay informed on anything and everything that could put limitations or regulations on your off-roading adventures by signing up to be part of the free SEMA Action Network (SAN). And as always, be sure to check back here next month for our next round of SEMA Law & Order updates!