By Matt Agosta, President of Steele Rubber Products and ARMO Legislative Chair
The beginning of the year got off with a bang for our lawmakers; just look at the notices from the SEMA Washington office for proof of that. Many of our state legislatures are considering pro-automotive legislation, but are some going way out in left field?
Take the state of Virginia which introduced a bill authorizing local municipalities and counties to raise property taxes on un-plated vehicles, not currently exempt, to a tune of $100 to $500 per vehicle per year. Exempted are cars and parts under restoration or repair stored on private property for fewer than 60 days. This would dilute existing state law that limits the ability of local authorities to implement restrictive ordinances preventing collectors from pursuing their hobby. Under current law, at least two inoperable vehicles being actively repaired or restored on private property are exempt from any local ordinance if shielded or screened from public view.
Fortunately, many hobbyists responded to the SEMA Action Network (SAN)call to action. Working with Virginia’s hobbyist groups, the SAN was successful in making changes to the proposed bill; totally exempting all vehicles 25 years or older and exempting all other vehicles undergoing restoration or repair that are stored on private property for less than 60 days. All vehicles stored within a structure would remain exempt. This bill has been approved by the House of Delegates and must now move to the Senate. Who knows what the final outcome will be.
Why is the car hobby singled out? Are we an easy mark? We have got to be vigilant in protecting our right to pursue our hobby. When I see laws like this introduced, it makes me wonder to what extent lawmakers will go to fill their coffers or what rights I will be forced to give up. What’s next, a tax on unused furniture sitting in storage? Will they impose a tax on our aging parents if they are no longer making a contribution to humanity? I know that sounds silly, but laws like this can be a slippery slope. We see it being played out today at the Federal level with more government intrusion in our lives.
I’ve said it before; lawmakers don’t intentionally make laws to hurt good people. As was the case in Virginia, they just don’t know or are unaware of the unintended consequences of their bills. It’s up to us to help them see how we are affected. The point here is that there is a better chance to influence the outcome of a bad bill if you get involved early in the process. Once the bill becomes law, it’s nearly impossible to make changes. Lawmakers just don’t want to re-visit issues that have already been decided, even if it was a bad decision.
So, the next time we get a SAN Action Alert, we can’t wait for the other guy to take action. He might not be there to help us. Or if you become aware of an issue that could affect you and/or the hobby, let us know by alerting the SEMA Washington office. They have helped me with a local zoning ordinance in the past and I know they can also help you.