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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

And the Issue that Won't Die is . . .
. . exhaust noise. And it doesn't take much to get a bill introduced; exhaust bills often come into existence because of a single constituent who might have an obnoxious neighbor and is trying to look for ways to make his own neighborhood peaceful. SAN defeated legislation last year that would have provided an incentive to localities to increase the number of citations issued for violation of vehicle noise regulations. The defeats on this topic are quite impressive, but it seems never-ending.

The New Threat on the Horizon
We mentioned California's budget deficit, but that's not the only state in financial doo-doo. SEMA's Steve McDonald tells us what the org is seeing this year, unlike in previous years, is plenty of new legislation designed to create new fees for a range of cars-not just for your toy, but your daily driver, too. "There were proposals for taxing your vehicle depending on how many miles it was driven each year. There were taxes proposed that varied depending on vehicle weight, and gas guzzler taxes were being proposed to essentially charge you an additional fee if you purchased a vehicle that was below a certain mpg," McDonald says. Add in the new nationwide fuel-economy standards equating to less fuel consumption, and states are beginning to panic about how the heck they're going to raise money to fix roads and highways. And did we mention registration fees in general are on the rise? The historic class is particularly vulnerable right now, since usually these cars have had a one-time minimal fee; don't be surprised if those become annual.

How a Bill Doesn't Become a Law
SAN actively lobbies on 200 to 300 bills in a typical legislative session but closely tracks thousands of bills each year. Ashley Ailsworth, SEMA research manager of government affairs, monitors state issues. A day in her life involves looking for keywords in hundreds of bills, such as emissions, tires, restoration, exhaust, vehicle height, land use . . . the list is nearly endless. "In the exhaust alert, for example, one of the words I think is important to monitor is noise, so anything that has the word noise in it, I'll read. That's not what gets put into a bill very often in any other situation." Ailsworth passes along any relevant bills to Steve McDonald, who then decides what action to take on the bill, with the most pressing of the bills resulting in Action Alerts to SAN members.

SAN also utilizes the relationships it has developed with the lawmakers in the Congressional Automotive Performance and Motorsports Caucus and State Automotive Enthusiast Leadership Caucus. "The State Caucus is a bipartisan group of state lawmakers whose common thread is a love for automobiles. To date, more than 450 state legislators from all 50 states have joined the group. The caucus serves to raise the motor vehicle hobby's profile in state legislatures across the country and in the eyes of the public. Many of these lawmakers seek to preserve and expand the hobby by improving existing motor vehicle statutes and regulations," McDonald says.

And bills can be reintroduced after they are defeated, be it in the next session, "or in the same session by substituting an existing bill with the same or similar language from the bill that was defeated," Ailsworth explains.

How to Join SAN
Sign up at or call 202/783-6007, ext. 39.

By Tori Tellem
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