Back in April of 2011, Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker, along with every member of the City Council, stood their ground and stated that their city was no place for electronic billboards through a city ordinance. Since that time, two things have happened: state lawmakers have become very interested in the issue, and Reagan Outdoor Advertising has pumped more than $250,000 into the campaign coffers of state lawmakers.
One recipient of these funds has been Senator Peter Knudson (Republican – Brigham City), having received $1,000 (or 11% of his total donations in between 2011 and 2012) from Reagan, has decided to run SB 76 – Outdoor Advertising Technology Amendments.
The bill looks remarkably like a hybrid of last year’s HB 87 from Representative Mel Brown (Republican – Coalville) and SB 136 from now President of the Senate, Senator Wayne Niederhauser (Republican – Sandy) – each of whom received $500 and $2,000 from Reagan, respectively. For historical reference, HB 87 died in committee while SB 136 died on the senate floor. Knudson’s bill, if it were to pass, expressly forbids municipalities to create ordinances that prevent billboard companies from upgrading their traditional billboards into electronic billboards (unless the new billboard would be in a residential area).
In a legislature so opposed to federal intrusion into state matters, it seems odd that the same state legislature would take such a keen interest in the micromanagement of its cities. Do lawmakers honestly believe that the issue of electronic billboard conversion is so pressing, so widespread, and so out of the realm of city capabilities that they must step step in to address the problem?
Or, is it possible that a major campaign donor, who happens to be the largest outdoor advertiser in the state, does not like the idea that some cities may decide that they would prefer to reduce their light pollution – cutting off potential new profits in the process?
When Salt Lake City initially passed its ordinance, opponents claimed that the new requirements were anti-business. No doubt these same arguments will resurface. Likewise, the arguments that billboards detract from the natural scenery and are a distraction to drivers will no doubt return.
Love them or hate them, these types of decisions should be left to the municipalities. By rushing to a bigger governmental entity to protect them, one has to wonder how likely the billboard companies are to succeed if they were to stand on their own. It is clear that this bill is designed for those that line the pockets of lawmakers, and not inherently what local governments want.
To contact Sen. Knudson, Click Here or call 435-723-2035
Impact on Average Utahn:
High Impact 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . 0 No Impact
Necessary 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . 0 Unnecessary
Great Bill 5 . 4 . 3 . 2 . 1 . 0 . -1 . -2 . -3 . -4 . -5 Poor Bill