Jim McFarland
October 27, 2010

Lobby for the Hobby
"We the people of the United States" are not just words from the first line of an old document. We are the people who love muscle cars, hot rods, street rods, tuners, replicas, off road trucks, and many other varieties of automotive pursuits that are as diverse as the country in which we live. We are also the people who have to work to protect our automotive passions from unnecessary, unfair, or well intentioned but poorly written laws and regulations. Fortunately, we the people live in a country where we can still make a difference in how we are governed.

Our greatest tool in making that difference is our voice. By speaking out on issues that concern the automotive hobby, contacting our representatives, and working constructively with government officials, we have the power to protect our passion and keep it safe for future generations of auto hobbyists and enthusiasts. When legislatures are out of session, representatives are in their home districts and typically have more time to meet casually with their constituents. They are also planning for the next legislative session and deciding which bills to introduce. Contacting them can have a tremendous impact by raising their awareness of issues that could impact our hobby during the next session. That is what makes right now the perfect time to get involved and build relationships with your legislators, so hit the gas and keep your foot down!

To get you started, we have prepared 10 tips you can use when contacting your representatives:

1. Develop and Maintain Relationships with Your Legislators and Their Staff
Make contact and develop productive relationships with individual legislators. It is the most effective form of grassroots lobbying. It's also important to develop a relationship with their staff who monitor ongoing legislative and community initiatives.

2. Educate Legislators About Our Hobby and Our Issues
Educate your legislator about the hobby and emphasize the positive impact it has on the community.

3. Maintain a Positive Attitude
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.

4. Stay Informed
Keep up-to-date on the legislative issues that affect the hobby in your state. Share this information with fellow enthusiasts.

5. Get Involved in the Community
Join with other community groups to build positive exposure. Holding charity runs and fundraisers provide a great opportunity to show local residents and politicians that auto clubs are a positive community force.

6. Build Relationships with the Local Media
Contact local newspapers and radio/TV stations to publicize car shows, charity events, etc.

7. Invite Officials to Participate in Your Events
Give legislators a platform to reach an audience of constituents.

8. Build an Automotive Coalition
Create coalitions to add strength in numbers and ensure that the rights of all vehicle enthusiasts are represented. Actively participating in regional and statewide councils will develop a unified message to lawmakers. These types of pro-hobbyist groups can be an influential political force.

9. Spread the Word
Take this information to your next club meeting, cruise night or post it on your online forums. Share this information with other enthusiasts who are willing to help lobby for the hobby.

10. Register to Vote
Exercise your right to support pro-hobby candidates. Constituents are an elected official's number-one priority. Without you and your vote of support, they would not be in office, so make sure you're registered and get out and vote.

Scrappage Programs
In recent years, state and federal officials have attempted to implement emissions reduction programs that target older vehicles. Most scrappage programs allow "smokestack" industries to avoid reducing their own emissions by buying pollution credits generated through destroying these vehicles. These programs accelerate the normal retirement of vehicles through the purchase of older cars, which are then typically crushed into blocks of scrap metal. Hobbyists suffer from the indiscriminate destruction of older cars, trucks and parts, which anyone undergoing a restoration project can attest. America safeguards its artistic and architectural heritage against indiscriminate destruction, and our automotive and industrial heritage deserves the same protection.

While some legislation designed to spur sales of new and used automobiles is positive, such as vouchers toward the purchase of a new or used cars or tax credits to help upgrade, repair or maintain older vehicles, scrappage provisions are not. Scrappage programs focus on vehicle age rather than actual emissions produced. This approach is based on the erroneous assumption that all "old cars are dirty cars." However, the true culprits are "gross polluters"-vehicles of any model year that are poorly maintained. Scrappage programs ignore better options like vehicle maintenance, repair, and upgrade programs that maximize the emissions systems of existing vehicles. In the past year, scrappage initiatives have been defeated California, North Carolina, and Washington.

Enthusiasts played a vital role in altering federal scrappage legislation in 2009 when an amendment was worked into the "Cash for Clunkers" program to spare vehicles 25-years and older from the scrappage heap and expand parts recycling opportunities. Cash for Clunkers operated through voluntary consumer participation, allowing car owners to receive a voucher to help buy a new car in exchange for scrapping a less fuel-efficient vehicle. Vehicle hobbyists eased the program's effects by convincing lawmakers to include a requirement that the trade-in vehicle be a model year '84-or-newer vehicle. This provision helped safeguard older vehicles, which are irreplaceable to hobbyists as a source of restoration parts.