Also unsuccessful at the state level: a Hawaii bill to allow civil lawsuits for the "nuisance" caused by inoperable vehicles on someone else's property; Michigan's bid to turn its one-time $35 registration fee for "historic" vehicles and its every-10-years $30 "year of manufacture" license plate fee into a pair of $30 annual fees; a proposed Nebraska law to expand the definition of "abandoned motor vehicle" to include cars and trucks left unattended for only six hours on private property without valid plates or title; New York bills to permit higher registration fees and bridge/Thruway tolls based on vehicle weight, and a measure to keep hobbyists from buying "professional use only" refinishing products (i.e., paint); bills in Virginia and West Virginia that would have banned aftermarket exhaust systems that produced "excessive noise" without objective definitions of just what "excessive noise" is; and a "clunker bill" in Washington State that would have mandated scrapping-regardless of historic/collector interest-any 15-plus-year-old vehicle traded in under that program.
Fortunately, two pieces of state legislation favorable to Corvette owners, collectors, and restorers were passed and signed into law this past year. Vermont's Senate Bill 237 included a definition of an "automobile hobbyist" as a person not primarily engaged in the sale of vehicles and parts or dismantling junk vehicles. It also included a provision stipulating that car and truck hobbyists are not to be confused with the owners of "automobile graveyards," and it excluded from the definition of such graveyards areas used by an automobile hobbyist for storage and restoration purposes. This bill was approved by both chambers of the Vermont legislature, and was signed into law on May 10.
Also signed into law this past spring: Louisiana's House Bill 118, extending that state's emissions and required-equipment inspection exemptions from vehicles 40-plus years old to all antique vehicles, now defined as cars and trucks that are at least 25 years old. This bill passed both chambers unanimously, and was signed into law (as Louisiana Act 229) on June 17.
Unfortunately, other bills that would have benefited Corvette owners, restorers, and collectors died at the end of the various state legislative sessions, or have not seen any action, as some state legislatures have not adjourned as of this writing (late July).
The car-hobbyist-favorable initiatives that did not advance in 2010 included two in California bills that would have removed the 500-vehicle-per-year vehicle limit on "specially constructed" vehicles (i.e., kit cars); bills in Michigan and Washington State that would have prohibited cities and towns from enforcing any restrictions preventing car hobbyists from pursuing their hobby (and instead requiring that project/parts cars merely be screened from public view); four West Virginia bills that would have cut the taxes and fees that hobbyists and collectors there pay; proposed measures in Idaho and Maryland to exempt some vehicles from their emission-inspection programs; and an Iowa bill creating a "limited-use" classification for antique motor vehicles driven up to 1,000 miles a year.
Still pending as of press time were bills in four states (Ohio, New York, New Jersey, and Massachusetts) that would use the Specialty Equipment Market Association's (SEMA, www.sema.org) model street rod and custom bill to create registration and titling classifications for these vehicles, including kit cars and replicas, and provide for special license plates.
Get Involved...It's Your Hobby!
The best way to make sure you're not "blindsided" by state or Federal action is to join an organization like the SEMA Action Network, either as an individual or in concert with your local Corvette club.
We contacted SEMA for this article, and the organization provided us with a 10-point list of tips on how to successfully lobby your elected representatives. Here's the list (courtesy of SEMA's Driving Force newsletter), with some points emphasized by this author.
Develop and maintain relationships with your legislators and their staffs. Make contact and develop productive relationships with individual legislators; it's the most important form of grassroots lobbying. It's also important to develop a rapport with staff members (especially the chief of staff), who monitor ongoing legislative and community initiatives.
Educate legislators about our hobby and our issues. Provide your legislators with more information about our hobby, and emphasize the positive impact it has on the community.
Maintain a positive attitude. It's critical that you develop a positive relationship with your legislator. The next time an enthusiast-related issue comes up, that same legislator may be needed to support your cause.