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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

OK, but California Really Hates Street Machines, Right?
Some legislators, such as in California and New York, sit all year-unlike the citizen legislators, these are full-time legislators. And many, many issues can come up just in California alone, since the state has various regulatory agencies, and each of the regions in Cali has an air-quality management district that regulates the air quality within that district. Plus, there's the Air Resources Board, the Bureau of Automotive Repair, and other agencies constantly coming out with new regulations.

Thousands of bills are introduced in California each session, with each bill having at least an initial hearing. And, yes, some of those bills may involve cars, equipment, or add-ons. But that's not necessarily an antihobby movement-blame the state's huge budget deficit and, with that, a desperation to find more avenues of revenue, posthaste. See the sidebar "The New Threat on the Horizon" for a hint of what's to come.

Write Angry Letters to Your Lawmakers-Not
You should totally write a nastygram to your lawmakers to let them know how upset you are about proposed legislation. OK, about that nastygram part-don't do it. Take a reasonable and professional approach in your letter, remembering that, in many cases, the lawmakers probably just need a better understanding of how the legislation would affect you. On SAN's website, there are samples of how to write an effective letter.

What you should be trying to do is create a relationship with your local lawmakers to open the lines of communication not only for right now, but for the future, too. "In many cases, lawmakers are pursuing broad policy initiatives that may inadvertently affect the enjoyment of the automotive hobby," explains SEMA's VP of Government Affairs, Steve McDonald. "Often, they are people you can sit down with over a beer to discuss alternative approaches that can allow them to meet stated goals without unnecessarily restricting vehicle modifications."

Big Win: Cash for Clunkers
What? The Cash for Clunkers program was a big win? Believe us, it could have been way worse. State Cash for Clunkers programs were originally launched to offset emissions by the stationary source polluters-utilities and smokestack industries. Last year, the U.S. Congress used the program as a way to ignite new-car sales. You trade in your older car, get a nice wad of cash, and go buy something shiny off a lot. But the win for street machines and all older cars was in the fine print.

"Our goal was to work with the government to incentivize new-car sales, but not at the expense of the unnecessary scrappage of the vintage cars and parts that are the lifeblood of our restoration industry," McDonald tells Car Craft. So while it might have felt like the entire program was a public execution of all cars, SAN was successful at working with the legislature to get an exemption put into the bill that basically disallowed vehicles 25 years or older from being subjected to the crusher.

"Often, scrappage programs are problematic, because on the surface, and to some people, they sound like good ideas-you're crushing an old car, cleaning up the environment, and you're putting them into a brand-new, potentially cleaner car," McDonald says. "But what they don't account for is the fact that there's a whole series of business entities and automotive enthusiasts that suffer as a result." Not to mention that older cars are usually just hobby cars, very well maintained and clean, and driven maybe a few hundred miles each year-not the gross polluters they're fingered to be.

By Tori Tellem
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