The MVSA has passed its final committee-level hurdle, passing the Senate Commerce Committee by unanimous vote [full Senate version in PDF here, summary here]. The Act now faces votes by the full House and Senate, with only one major issue differentiating the two: the House version includes a “vehicle safety user fee” on new car sales, while the Senate version does without, thanks. Either way, NHTSA gets its budget doubled to $280m by 2013, so the difference is pretty academic. Other minor quibbles include whether or not to cap NHTSA’s fining power at $200m or $300m per defect. Somehow I think they’ll work it out. Look for the bill to move towards President Obama’s desk at distinctly un-legislative speed. After all, a little pork always helps… and the Senate Commerce Committee also just approved a bill (S.1938) ordering the DOT to grant $94m per year to states with hands-free laws for enforcement of those laws, distracted driver awareness education road signs. Who likes the smell of legislation?
The House Energy And Commerce Committee has passed an amended version of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act that was previously approved by its Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection. True to our prediction, longtime auto industry ally Rep John Dingell (D-MI) was able to maintain caps on NHTSA’s fining power at $200m per automaker per defect recall (up from the current cap of $16.4m) and $5m per auto executive per defect, and require that NHTSA inform automakers and allow for an appeal before invoking the “imminent hazard” powers authorized by the bill. Dingell tells Automotive News [sub] that
The bill is going to be a hard one for the industry to accept, but I believe it’s in the public interest and is good overall.
Due to scheduling conflicts with a certain island nation’s democratic rituals, CSPAN didn’t have a channel to spare for today’s auto safety legislation hearing before the the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee. Which means your faithful blogger is at the mercy of the mainstream media’s digestive process in this matter. Regardless, it seems clear by now that the legislation has driven the industry back to the Republican bosom, after a period of post-bailout estrangement. These newly-re-allied forces collectively raised concerns about a number of key proposals presented by Rep Henry Waxman’s Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 2010, including the un-capping NHTSA fines, privacy issues relating to “black box” event data recorders, new car sale vehicle fees, pedal clearance standards, and increased regulation of an industry with state-owned competitors.