Editor's note: Any political viewpoints expressed herein are those of SEMA and do not necessarily represent those of the author or GMHTP.
Life isn't fair; that's just a reality we all face every day. Sometimes it's due to circumstances beyond your control: your mint-condition C5 FRC getting rear-ended by some bozo on his cell phone is a perfect example. But when life's unfairness results from laws being poorly drafted or enforced-the latter often stemming from the former-the situation is unacceptable exactly because it is avoidable.
It is critical to consider how actions taken by lawmakers impact hobbyists such as GMHTP readers, and that's one thing the trade association known as Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) has been doing for the better part of five decades. "The need for the enthusiast community to stay informed and become involved is greater than ever," says SEMA. "From emissions to auto equipment standards, the government is making decisions about your current and future car. This topic is not limited to Washington. While the federal government issues national rules dictating vehicle safety and emissions equipment, most other issues are handled at the state and local levels. From titling and registration to inspection/maintenance, your car is subject to decisions made by state and local officials."
Fortunately, SEMA provides a great way to help make your voice heard. The SEMA Action Network (SAN) is a partnership between enthusiasts, car clubs, and industry that works in support of legislative solutions for the auto hobby. Membership is free, and once you join, SAN action alerts will keep you informed about pending legislation and regulations that could impact your state or locality, and most importantly, what you can do to support or oppose them. (See the sidebar for more details.)
While SEMA deals with a massive amount of current and pending legislation (one example being that relating to vehicle scrappage and inoperable vehicles), to get you started thinking about the things that matter to you as an enthusiast, we're going to limit our discussion to some of the major issues that apply directly to the vehicles we know and love (namely, EFI-equipped GMs built since the mid-1980s). But we won't entirely ignore goings-on that could affect classic muscle cars, since LS engine and EFI swaps into them are not at all unusual. Within each section will appear a smattering of bills that SEMA has worked to either support or oppose during recent legislative sessions.
Emissions & Inspection
Keep in mind that just because...
Keep in mind that just because a state doesn't have an emissions inspection program (as is the case with any state we haven't listed), emissions equipment tampering can still be a ticketable, or even impoundable, offense should you be stopped at the roadside. New Jersey has a comprehensive inspection program and set of exemptions, but they still love creating inspection roadblocks like this one. They're mostly to check for expired inspection stickers, but we've seen the mirrors they use to look under the car for the presence of catalytic converters.
An upcoming emissions inspection appointment can often be cause for much enthusiast apprehension, one reason being the potential for inspectors to wrongly fail vehicles simply because they are equipped with aftermarket parts (even if those parts may be emissions legal). Pending emissions and inspection legislation is one area where SEMA keeps a close eye. "Policy makers must properly focus inspection procedures and not confuse legitimate aftermarket parts with emission defeat devices and tampering violations," says SEMA. "The hobby must also pursue proactive legislative initiatives to establish exemptions from inspections for low-mileage vehicles, classic vehicles (defined as 25 years old and older), and newer vehicles. It is useful to remind legislators that the emissions [of criteria pollutants like carbon monoxide and oxides of nitrogen] from this small portion of the vehicle fleet are negligible. This is especially true when you consider the low miles typically driven by hobby vehicles and the excellent condition in which these vehicles are maintained."
We felt this was a good opportunity to mention what the current rules are, so below you'll find a listing of states that require emission inspections for gasoline-powered vehicles, for what model years inspections are required, and whether enthusiasts might exempt themselves from the inspection requirement altogether. After all, our treasured GMs are often strictly pleasure vehicles, and hence infrequently driven compared to daily transportation, so registering and/or insuring them as limited-use vehicles often can save a lot of hassle and money. Because terms like "antique," "hot rod," "classic," and "collector" vary in definition from state to state, you'll need to check with your motor vehicle agency to see whether your car might fall under the purview of such a classification. And note that, frightening though it may seem, some EFI rides are now old enough that they're starting to fall within many states' exemptions for vehicles over 25 years old! Included with each state is any pending or recently pending legislation concerning emission inspections.