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  Legislative Feature

ASA Leaders Take Independents' Message to Capitol Hill

Posted 6/9/2011
By Robert L. Redding Jr.

Independent repairers meet with the new 112th Congress.

The Automotive Service Association hosted a Capitol Hill fly-in May 11 for ASA members in Washington, D.C. Meetings were held with members of Congress and congressional office and committee staffers as well as with members of the Obama administration.

With almost 100 new U.S. House members and nearly 20 new members of the U.S. Senate, ASA believes it is critical for independent automotive repairers to introduce themselves to the new Congress and let them know how important our businesses are to their districts and states.

ASA leaders covered a number of issues of importance to mechanical and collision repairers, including requests for Congress to:

    • Provide incentives for state periodic motor vehicle safety inspection programs as well as a national study on vehicle safety inspection programs

    • Support the enforcement of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) auto refinishing regulation

    • Support independent repairers having input in the upcoming Federal Insurance Office's report on insurance regulation

    • Support vehicle disclosure legislation

ASA has been concerned about the attacks in several states on periodic motor vehicle safety inspection programs - including initiatives in New Jersey, the District of Columbia, Missouri, North Carolina and Hawaii. With less than half the states having safety inspection programs, the number of state programs continues to decline.

Key issues in many states are the lack of data to ensure the value of programs and the costs of the programs. Both Missouri and Pennsylvania have provided studies to policymakers demonstrating the value of safety inspection with regard to reducing accidents, injuries and deaths. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has not produced an analysis of these state programs despite encouragement from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and the industry. ASA also asked Congress to consider incentives to states to establish or enhance safety inspection programs in upcoming transportation legislation.

ASA collision leaders met with top U.S. EPA officials to discuss the latest EPA automotive refinishing program regulation. Leaders discussed concerns about specific state and EPA enforcement of the regulation. In addition, ASA highlighted its opposition to the rule exemption for coatings applied from a "hand-held device with a paint cup capacity that is equal to or less than 3.0 fluid ounces."

ASA will continue to work with federal and state regulators to ensure repairers' views are known to automotive refinishing regulation enforcement authorities. ASA worked with the EPA in the early stages of rule development with multiple meetings, demonstrations and training sessions at NACE.

Included in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act were specific provisions sought by ASA. These included a study by the U.S. Treasury Department's new Federal Insurance Office on how to modernize and improve the system of insurance regulation in the United States. Some organizations are trying to repeal the language in the Dodd-Frank law requiring the study. ASA asked members of Congress and the Treasury Department to move forward with the study and allow input by collision repairers.

U.S. Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, has introduced H.R. 164, the "Damaged Vehicle Information Act," directing the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to require greater disclosure of information relating to the market value and safety of damaged motor vehicles.

ASA supports vehicle disclosure and encouraged members of Congress, in meetings, to co-sponsor H.R.164. ASA also asked that Congress consider requiring that consumers receive written disclosure at the time of the collision repair about the types of crash parts used in the repair. In addition, the vehicle owner should consent, in writing prior to the repair, to the use of replacement crash parts.

Repairers stressed the importance of funding vocational education programs and found that members of Congress were interested in the value of these programs to small businesses.

With the Right to Repair legislation, H.R. 1449, introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives, ASA members stressed that the legislation was not needed and how the marketplace, with third-party information providers and automaker websites - as well as the current National Automotive Service Task Force - was doing an excellent job of ensuring independent repairers have the information necessary for their businesses. ASA encouraged members of Congress not to legislate more federal regulatory intrusion for small businesses.

ASA was pleased with the reception by members of Congress and looks forward to future Capitol Hill fly-ins. To view more about the 2011 event, please go to ASA's legislative website, www.TakingTheHill.com.

Taking the Hill

EPA Addresses Risk Assessments and Impact on Health

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced a strategy to address the four draft Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) assessments that were placed on hold in June 2010. IRIS assessments are made by the EPA to test the potential effect certain chemicals have on people's health.

In this assessment, four chemicals were tested: methanol, methyl tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE), ethyl tertiary-butyl ether (ETBE) and acrylonitrile. According to the EPA, these four chemicals are used throughout the automotive industry in a number of different products and resources. Methanol, for example, is used in paints, varnishes, wiper fluid and adhesives. MTBE and ETBE are gasoline additives and acrylonitrile is used in the manufacture of certain plastics.

The EPA held the assessments due to a report conducted by the National Toxicology Program (NTP), administered by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). The report summarized a review of research completed by the Ramazzini Institute, a lab in Italy that conducts animal testing to evaluate the potential cancer-causing effects of chemicals. The report discussed findings from an NTP assessment of an animal study on methanol and recommended that further pathology reviews be carried out to resolve differences of opinion between NTP scientists and the Ramazzini Institute in the diagnoses of certain cancers reported in the study.

The non-cancer health effects resulting from exposure to methanol are not under review. Therefore, the draft assessment of methanol - IRIS Methanol Toxicological Review (Non-Cancer) - will be released shortly for public comment and peer review. — Philip Thompson

S.C. Crash Parts Legislation Sent Back to Subcommittee

South Carolina state Sen. David Thomas, R-Seneca, pre-filed legislation mirroring that of the National Conference of Insurance Legislators' (NCOIL) Model Act Regarding Motor Vehicle Crash Parts and Repair in December 2010. In April, a committee vote was held to determine the future of a much-diluted bill.

The Automotive Service Association (ASA) opposed Thomas' bill as originally filed. The original text, S. 70, has now been altered and the new bill number is S. 417. The action in April may kill the legislation for the year.

S. 417 defines certified aftermarket crash parts as:

"A replacement crash part that has been certified by an American National Standards Institute (ANSI) accredited standards developer and maintains a consensus of quality standards for competitive crash parts. A certified aftermarket crash part is identified by a serial number unique to each part and contains a removable tag with that serial number that can be used to record and trace the use of that part. Notwithstanding another provision of law, there may be only one certification standard established for each individual crash part."

To read more specifics about the legislation, ASA encourages independent repairers to go to the ASA legislative website, www.TakingTheHill.com. — Kaityln Dwyer

To read about these and other legislative items
in greater detail, please visit www.TakingTheHill.com.

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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