As summer boils on, so too does the Specialty Equipment Market Association’s legislative obligations, not because they’re required to act but because they choose to put the automotive industry’s best interests first on both the state and federal levels. Just like in years past, SEMA is facing adjourning legislatures this summer, but that hasn’t stopped the organization from pushing ahead to continue to make the automotive hobby fair and consistent. Check out July’s Law & Order updates below!
As a first order of business, we’d like to remind everyone that this Friday, July 11th is the official Collector Car Appreciation Day for 2014. With state and federal proclamations, including a recent one from Louisiana, having been made about the day of celebration, countless organizations and businesses are putting on BBQs, cruise-ins, car shows and get-togethers for the occasion.
Be sure to check out the SEMA Action Network’s website for an up-to-date list of events in your area you can attend with your off-road rig to celebrate this special day!
On to federal updates: A bill has been introduced in Congress which, if passed, would add the word “National” to the Johnson Valley Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation Area title.
Last year, the government ruled for a compromise regarding the land in the Johnson Valley OHV Recreation Area, which had been the subject of a battle between off-road enthusiasts, with the cooperation of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Marine Corps base in Twentynine Palms, California. Both sides wanted to take ownership of the land for their own use. What the government decided was that the Marine base would get a chunk of the land for military use while 96,000 acres of land would remain in the possession and control of the Bureau of Land Management.
The newly-introduced bill aims to recognize the area maintained for off-road use for its national significance, as it is the first federal OHV area in the country.
Also dealing with a battle over land, the U.S. House of Natural Resources Committee has approved four bills which aim to reform certain aspects of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The ESA is now 40 years old and is desperately in need of updating, allowing lands to be designated off limits because of endangered species while other lands are maintained for off-road use.
In the past, a number of off-road recreational areas have been closed off due to the presence of endangered species on the land. SEMA is hoping that with the new bill, the ESA can become more focused on establishing and managing smaller closed-off areas to benefit both off-road enthusiasts and the endangered species of this country.
On the state level, many legislatures have seen bills introduced on the topic of license plates. Some of these states include Wisconsin, where legislative adjournment caused a bill aiming to allow for single license plates to be displayed on any road-going vehicle to die, New York, where a similar bill aiming to make the use of single license plates legal for an annual fee of $50 has been introduced, and Rhode Island, where a bill has been introduced which would allow the manufacture and issuance of replica year-of-manufacture plates for vehicles 25 years old or older.
For those vintage off-road vehicle owners in Wisconsin, you will soon be allowed to use one or two historic license plates on your vehicles as long as it was made before 1980, thanks to a new bill just signed into law. Other states facing decisions on similar bills include New Hampshire and Alabama. Unfortunately, Alabama’s legislature adjourned before considering a bill this year that, if passed, would have allowed owners of vintage off-road vehicles to display classic license plates on their vehicle while continuing to pay regular state licensing fees.
In Arizona, legislation introduced which aimed to allow for a rolling emissions exemption for cars 40 years old or older died when the Arizona legislature adjourned for the year. Though a bill basically making this legal was signed into law back in 2011, it has not yet been enacted, which this more recent bill would have pushed for. There is hope that the bill (or a similar one) will be considered next year.
Other bills that died because of legislative adjournments include a Kansas bill opposed by SEMA, which aimed to allow inoperable vehicles to be removed from private property if they were deemed a nuisance, a SEMA-supported Kentucky bill, which aimed to set new valuation perimeters for all vehicles for property tax purposes, and a Nebraska bill, also opposed by SEMA, which aimed to put stricter parameters on legal headlamp colors.
A similar bill in Ohio was recently signed into law regarding headlamp color, but thanks to a SEMA-approved amendment, this law coincides with the federal standards for white headlamps rather than eliminating blue-tinted lights which still fit within the scale of legal white headlamp colors.
Other updates you should know about include New Hampshire’s bill aiming to prohibit a person from selling or offering gasoline with more than 10 percent ethenol in it has been approved by the state’s House of Representatives and now moves to the Senate Transportation Committee for consideration, as well as a Nebraska bill aiming to relieve automotive museums from having to pay use and sales taxes on museum purchases was signed into law.
The summer continues to heat up and with it is sure to be more legislative action that SEMA has to keep an eye on. Be sure to check back next month to see more updates as the war against unfair legislation rages on. For weekly updates, be sure to sign up for free with the SEMA Action Network.