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Political Events and Actions Threatening the Automotive Hobby - Can They Outlaw Street Machines?

The State Of The Union

By Tori Tellem, Photography by The Car Craft Archives

Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait-don't turn the page. Yeah, we know what you're thinking: This is probably one of those stories about contacting my congressman. Booooring. And we know those types of articles sorta make your eyes glaze over like a 5 a.m., fresh-from-the-oven, Original Glazed Krispy Kreme doughnut. Speaking of, mmmm doughnut.

But what we're talking about here are muscle cars, performance parts, homebuilt cars, the aftermarket, and all the other stuff you dig about street machines and drag racing. We've learned what's really going on in the heads of government types when it comes to trying to ban our fun. And let's just say they've come uncomfortably close a few times. See, not so booooring.

One of the main players with its A-game on when it comes to taking up the cause is the SEMA Action Network (SAN). Sure, the name sounds like it might be a new channel on your boob tube, with shows about explosions and people running for their lives and full-throttle crashes, but SAN is a group of enthusiasts like us and car clubs (and is 40,000 members strong) who rally together when it comes to legislation related to street machines (and collectibles, four-wheeling, and all automotive walks of life). We know you've already heard of SEMA when we talk about heading to Vegas for the SEMA show's new product unveilings-one of the only times when what happens in Vegas doesn't stay there-but the org is also extremely active on government issues, monitoring legislation, drafting laws, and basically, having our backs.

Here's the interesting part: Many lawmakers have enlisted in the Congressional Automotive Performance and Motorsports Caucus and State Automotive Enthusiast Leadership Caucus. So, they're car guys. Even better: SAN has their ear.

You can become a member of SAN, and it costs nada to do it. You won't be asked to chain yourself to your car in front of the White House or your governor's mansion. At least we don't think that's the case. You will, however, be emailed a monthly newsletter and alerts about bills (including how you could be affected, what you need to do, and whom to contact). There are even perks to SAN membership, such as access to online info about some vehicle laws in your state, full access to the SEMA government affairs staff, and the ability to submit photos of your car to the website and for inclusion in the newsletter-not to mention, being personally responsible for protecting what we do.

And now, that million-dollar question: Can they outlaw street machines?

Legislators Are Targeting Street Machines
Not really. It's generally not as calculated as it might feel, especially at the state level. For the most part, your state's reps are citizen legislators who go back to real jobs when not in session, and their legislature might meet only for a month and a half or two months every year, or every other year, such as in Texas and Montana. Therefore, when they are in session, they're dealing with the big issues-budget, taxation, and education-and not necessarily obsessing about modified cars.

But when an automotive issue does surface, it still might not even be about sticking it to us; there may simply be a lack of information and knowledge on the legislator's part about how to properly word the legislation to not affect us in a bad way. This year in Utah, there was a bill aimed at loud motorcycles, but the legislation was written to not actually specify just motorcycles, so it would have ended up affecting all types of vehicles if it had passed. SAN has seen time and again that once a conversation has taken place, many legislators are very reasonable and willing to consider SAN's model legislation on various issues, which has been written by SEMA staff in our favor.

By Tori Tellem
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