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  Legislative Feature

Auto Repair Legislation Begins Early for 2011 Sessions

Posted 2/10/2011
By Robert L. Redding Jr.

ASA Provides Advocacy Tools for Independent Repairers

The 112th Congress has already seen auto repair legislation introduced and state legislators were pre-filing 2011 bills in the closing days of 2010. This legislative year will be an active one for automotive repairers.

The 112th Congress took little time organizing its committees and rules for the two-year schedule. As for the state legislatures, there are 37 states and the District of Columbia already in session. There are two states in special session, and Alabama has begun its organizational session. Six additional states are allowing their members to pre-file bills for the upcoming year.

Although the U.S. Congress receives the most attention as far as the legislative agenda in the national media, the volume of bills considered by state legislatures is too often ignored in its impact on automotive repairers. For the 2010 state legislative sessions, 26,037 bills were pre-filed at the state level. More than 100,000 bills were introduced in 2010 with 31,315 bills becoming law. Just in the last week, 1,734 bills were pre-filed for the 2011 sessions, 6,122 bills were introduced and 335 bills became law.

The Automotive Service Association (ASA) tracks legislation in all 50 states. Hundreds of bills are in play across the country at any given time that have some impact on repairers in specific states. ASA monitors these bills and many are placed on its legislative website, www.TakingTheHill.com. Bills are selected for the site if designated impacting high-profile issues by the ASA board of directors; others are tracked when ASA members have indicated an interest in specific legislation in their states. Bill activity is updated on a regular basis for repairers to monitor on the website.

The U.S. Congress saw the House of Representatives flip control to the Republican party. The top priority for the leadership is repeal of national health care legislation passed in the 111th Congress. We have also seen several auto repair bills introduced in the Congress in these first few weeks.

Of interest to mechanical repairers, U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, has introduced House Bill 229, the Michael Jon Newkirk Transportation Safety Enhancement Act of 2011, which establishes national standards for state safety inspections for motor vehicles. The bill requires states to establish minimum annual vehicle safety inspection programs or lose specific federal funds. Included in the requirements listed in the language of this new bill, states must enact and enforce "a law that requires the owner of a motor vehicle registered in the state to present the vehicle for inspection on an annual basis to ensure that the vehicle meets or exceeds motor vehicle safety standards to be established by the state. At a minimum, such standards shall ensure that the seatbelts and speedometer installed in the vehicle are operable."

Collision repairers should note that U.S. Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce's Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, opened the 112th Session by introducing the Damaged Vehicle Information Act, H.R.164. Stearns has been involved with vehicle disclosure legislation in previous congresses. The bill provides that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration require "all persons who terminate a contract related to a motor vehicle due to flood or water damage, collision, fire damage, theft and recovery, or any other circumstance that adversely affects the fair market value of such motor vehicle, to disclose to the public in commercially reasonable, electronically accessible manner," important vehicle information.

In the states, samples of bills that matter to repairers include:

    • South Carolina Senate Bill 70 - This is an aftermarket crash parts bill that mirrors model legislation crafted and currently being considered by the National Conference of Insurance Legislators (NCOIL).

    • New York Senate Bill 129 - This is a repeat of Right to Repair legislation offered in New York state.

    • Mississippi House Bill 151 - This bill will repeal Mississippi's motor vehicle safety inspection law.

These are just a few samples of legislation at the federal and state levels that impact ASA members across the nation. This does not include proposed regulations at the federal and state levels. In just the month of January we have seen the National Auto Refinishing regulation administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reach all collision repairers and continued consideration of public comments on the used oil regulation proposed by the EPA.

ASA provides online advocacy tools for members to use in efforts to let their views be known to state and federal policymakers. ASA will engage in specific state bills involving issues that ASA leaders believe impact ASA members across the country; i.e., vehicle safety inspection, aftermarket crash parts, service information availability, etc. It's easy to check bills of interest in your state or at the federal level by simply going to ASA's legislation website, www.TakingTheHill.com.

Top issues of the day are profiled on the home page of www.TakingTheHill.com, but on the left side, repairers can look at a larger number of bills by using the state or federal legislative tracking buttons. Some of the top issues involve grassroots activity by ASA and include letters on the website that repairers in that particular state can forward electronically to their state or federal representatives. What information is required? Only your ZIP code.

If a bill or regulation of interest to you is not included on the site, you can contact ASA via the website or at (800) ASA-SHOP. In addition to our Washington, D.C., office and ASA volunteer Governmental Affairs Committee, these tools provide a simple structure for independent repairers to have their voices heard at state capitols around the nation and on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

Please take a minute to go to www.TakingTheHill.com and register for important legislative alerts from ASA.

Taking the Hill

Bill Would Repeal Mississippi Safety Inspections

Mississippi state Rep. Steve Horne, R-81, has introduced House Bill 151, which would repeal the Mississippi annual safety inspection of motor vehicles program.

About 30 states have no vehicle safety inspection program. Of the states that have programs, several only require vehicle inspection when the vehicle is sold or transferred.

According to a recent study, the rate of unperformed and underperformed vehicle maintenance in the United States dropped from $55 billion in 2007 to $50 billion in 2008.

State vehicle inspections is an area that the Automotive Service Association (ASA) has encouraged the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to pursue since the early days of the Clinton administration. NHTSA has not placed a high value on state vehicle safety inspections. This attitude toward safety inspection, coupled with the lack of review of imported aftermarket crash parts, demonstrates the agency's lack of interest in what happens to a vehicle after it leaves the dealer showroom.

If the bill becomes law, it will take effect July 11, 2011. ASA opposes MS H.B. 151. - Philip Thompson

Estimating Bill Proposed in Montana

In early January, Montana House Bill 1530 was proposed in pre-filed draft form. The bill outlines rules regarding estimates for collision repairs. The original Montana law included the following;

An insurance company, including its producers and adjusters, that issues or renews a policy of insurance in this state covering, in whole or in part, a motor vehicle may not:

    • require that a claimant under the policy use a particular automobile body repair business or location for an estimate or a repair; or

    • engage in any act or practice that intimidates, coerces, or threatens a claimant or that provides an incentive or inducement for a claimant to use a particular automobile body repair business or location.

The proposed bill language, pre-filed Dec. 29, 2010, includes an additional provision; an insurance company, including its producers and adjusters, that issues or renews a policy of insurance in this state covering, in whole or in part, a motor vehicle may not:

    • unilaterally and arbitrarily disregard a repair operation or cost identified by an estimating system that the insurer and an automobile body repair business or location have agreed to utilize in determining the cost of repair. - Kaitlyn Dwyer

Bob Redding Bob Redding is the Automotive Service Association's Washington, D.C., representative. He is a member of several federal and state advisory committees involved in the automotive industry.

For more information about the legislative activities of ASA, visit www.TakingTheHill.com.

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