RPM Act makes slow, steady progress in U.S. Congress

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bmw track car drifting front three-quarter Borna Bevanda

The RPM Act, which aims to protect the legality of street-to-race car conversions, is making slow but steady steps towards becoming law. Back in October, we covered the re-introduction of the RPM Act by Senators Richard Burr (R-North Carolina) and Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia). Earlier this week, on December 16, the House version of the bill was introduced by U.S. Representatives Patrick McHenry (R-NC) and Raul Ruiz (D-CA) and submitted to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce.

Wait a second, you may say. Isn’t a bill supposed to march straight from the House to the Senate? Why are there two versions of the same bill?

We dug around and did some research to clarify the process. There are, in fact, two different bills titled, “The RPM Act.” Both target the same goal: legalizing street-to-strip conversions of cars that involve removing EPA-mandated emissions equipment.

While bills must be passed in both houses of Congress before the president makes a final verdict, their progress is rarely linear. With the notable exception of bills regarding revenue, a bill may originate in either house of Congress. It’s not uncommon for two versions of the same bill to be floating around the House and the Senate, each with tweaks and modifications made by the respective committees of either house.

Right now there’s the House version of the RPM Act, formally designated H.R.5434; and the Senate version, S.2602. These alphanumeric designations are unique to the bills introduced in the 116th session of Congress (2019–2020).

Why did things sound so positive in October and so confusing now? When SEMA reports that “the RPM Act is well-positioned to become law in 2020,” it takes into account “several major legislative hurdles” the bill passed in the previous session of Congress (2017–2018). In that session, the bill underwent hearings in the House and Senate and was formally passed by the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Fast-forward to the current session of Congress, 2019–2020. To make things more confusing, the House and the Senate have slightly different definitions of “introducing” a bill. The House requires bills from previous sessions to be introduced all over again: hence, this week’s “introduction” of H.R.5434. The Senate takes a longer view and accounts for the bill’s introduction in previous sessions; so when senators Manchin and Burr brought the bill before the Senate back in October, that was filed as “re-introducing” the Senate’s version of the RPM Act, S.2602.

Since, as SEMA’s Eric Snyder tells us, the differences between the two versions of the RPM Act are extremely minor, whichever version is first approved by either house of Congress will likely be approved by the other. If the bills had diverged greatly in the editing process, a separate committee would be needed to reconcile the changes; but that’s unlikely with the RPM Act. Once the final vote is taken, the bill will pass, per usual, to the president’s desk.

What does this mean for the future of hot rodders and automotive tinkerers? The legislative machine is working, however slowly and complicatedly, and SEMA continues to advocate for the bill’s progress and passage. In the meantime, you can submit a pre-written letter to your representative in support of race-car modifying freedom here.

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