Land Use Notes
2008 SEMA/SAN Legislative Victories
The most powerful tool in protecting the hobby continues to be an informed and active enthusiast. This was demonstrated in full force as SAN members from across the United States and Canada voiced their opinions to lawmakers considering hobby-related legislation. Here is a brief look at some of the legislative victories in 2008.
Gas Guzzlers: SAN members defeated a bill that would have required the California Air Resources Board to impose a fee on the sale (or lease of one year or longer) of a new passenger motor vehicle that has a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds or less; a manufacturer's suggested retail price of more than $80,000; and a federal fuel-economy rating of 15 miles per gallon or less.
Emissions Inspections: The SAN defeated a bill that would have required biennial emissions inspections in all areas of the state, while retaining the existing exemptions.
Annual Inspection: SAN members in California defeated legislation to require annual smog-check inspections for vehicles 15 years old and older. The bill would also have required that funds generated through the additional inspection fees be deposited into an account which could be used to scrap older cars. Pre-'76 motor vehicles would have remained exempt under the bill.
"Gas Guzzlers": The SAN defeated legislation that proposed a new-car surcharge tax, which would have escalated based on carbon emissions. Depending on the vehicle purchased, this surcharge could have required owners to pay up to $2,500 more for the vehicle and affected consumers' ability to purchase the vehicle of their choice.
Engine Tax: SAN members defeated legislation to establish a progressive fee for state motor vehicles based on engine size. These fees would have been collected by the state at the time of initial vehicle registration and at subsequent renewals of registration. These fees would have been in addition to fees and taxes normally required for registration or renewal.
Exhaust Noise: The SAN defeated a bill that sought to ban vehicles equipped with an exhaust system "that has been modified to make more noise or sound than the vehicle made when manufactured." The measure would have allowed law enforcement officers to seize and impound a vehicle upon making a subjective determination that the vehicle was in violation.
Project Titles: SAN-supported legislation to create classic motor-vehicle project titles was signed into law by Governor Steve Beshear. The new law applies to vehicles at least 25 years old, not road-worthy, and currently without a title or with a title from another state. Under the law, a classic motor-vehicle project title would prohibit the use of vehicles bearing these titles on the highway but, once restored, a regular title could be issued.
Emissions Tax: The SAN helped defeat legislation which attempted to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with a new-car surcharge tax which escalates based on carbon emissions. Depending on the vehicle purchased, this surcharge could have required owners to pay up to $2,500 more for the vehicle.
Grilleguards: New York SAN members defeated legislation to prohibit the use of grilleguards attached to a motor vehicle's chassis. The measure relied on unsubstantiated claims that grilleguards create the potential of greater harm to other vehicles in the event of a collision and obstruct airbag sensors, rendering the airbags useless in an accident. The bill would have required owners of vehicles currently equipped with grilleguards (including those purchased with this equipment from a dealership) to remove these guards.
Custom Vehicles: A version of SEMA-model legislation to create a vehicle registration and titling classification for custom vehicles was signed into law by Governor Phil Bredesen. The new law defines a custom-built car as a vehicle that is built for private use and is not constructed by a licensed manufacturer or remanufacturer. Under the law, kit cars and replica vehicles will be assigned a certificate of title bearing the same model-year designation as the production vehicle it most closely resembles.
Scrappage Program: The SAN defeated a bill that would have implemented a vehicle scrappage program and financed it with a progressive purchase and use tax and higher registration fees for some new motor vehicles based on fuel-efficiency ratings. Funds collected under the program would have been used to dismantle vehicles deemed by the state to be "clunkers," regardless of their historical value or collector interest.
Greenhouse Gas Taxes: The SAN defeated two bills that sought to tax vehicle owners in an attempt to reduce motor-vehicle emissions. The first bill would have established two separate progressive fees for state motor vehicles based on (1) engine size and (2) calculations of carbon emissions. These fees would have been collected by the state at the time of initial vehicle registration and at subsequent renewals of registration. The second bill sought to establish a progressive annual excise tax for all passenger motor vehicles based on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) fuel-economy ratings. This tax could have required some vehicle owners to pay up to $240 each year.
Inoperable Vehicles: For the third time, SAN members defeated a bill that would have further restricted the ability of vehicle hobbyists from maintaining inoperable vehicles on private property. The measure would have redefined "abandoned motor vehicles" to include vehicles or vehicle parts which are either unlicensed or inoperable, or both, are not in an enclosed building, and have remained on private property for more than 30 days. Under current law, the abandoned vehicle law applies primarily to vehicles on public property. The bill would have made violation a misdemeanor offense punishable by substantial fines, community service, and jail.
U.S. Federal Issues
Wilderness Legislation: Congress embarked on an aggressive push to designate as much as 2 million acres of land as "wilderness." Use of motorized vehicles is prohibited on wilderness lands. The issue is consequential to SAN members as less riding areas will be open for off-highway vehicle (OHV) use. President Bush signed into law a SAN-opposed bill creating the 106,000-acre Wild Sky Wilderness in Washington state. The SAN supported an alternative to preserve existing roads and trails on about 13,000 acres of the land. A number of other bills were being considered to designate new wilderness areas in California, Idaho, and New Mexico, among other locations. The SAN has recommended that the pending legislation protect OHV use by excluding "cherry-stemmed" roads and trails.