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August 12, 2008 (512) 463-0300

COMMITTEE CONSIDERS BILLBOARD RESTRICTIONS

Irving - The Transportation and Homeland Security Committee met in Irving Tuesday to hear from both sides of the often contentious billboard issue. Critics of roadside billboards say the thousands of advertisements negatively impact quality of life and scenery along state highways. Supporters counter that billboards are a necessary and important marketing tool and increasing regulation impacts property rights.

Margaret Lloyd, policy director for Scenic Texas, an organization that stands in favor of a general ban on billboards, testified that Texas has more billboards along its roads than any other state, more than 40,000. Many of these billboards, she said, are erected in defiance of state regulations. Outside of city jurisdictions, she testified that there is little or no regulation of billboards.

Texas Department of Transportation official John Barton testified regarding state regulations of billboards. The federal government passed a law in 1968 that required states to regulate the construction and placement of billboards. Barton said that many billboards are built illegally for a number of reasons, including a lack of understanding of existing laws, and dispute over what areas can be defined as industrial or commercial, locations that billboards are restricted to. He went on to say that his agency is working to streamline and clarify existing regulations, to improve compliance.

Lee Vela, who represents the Outdoor Advertising Association of Texas, testified that the vast majority of billboards are constructed in appropriate areas, and outdoor advertising remains a critical marketing tool. He said that the number of billboards are actually decreasing: since 2006, more billboards permits have been terminated than new permits issued. His organization, he said, is in favor of a balance between commercial and aesthetic interests.

Billboards have long been a contentious issue, and Senator Tommy Williams of the Woodlands said that the principle stakeholders need to come to a compromise soon, or neither party would like the decision on the issue that may come down from the Legislature next session. Committee Chairman Senator John Carona of Dallas seconded this sentiment.

The Transportation and Homeland Security Committee is chaired by Dallas Senator John Carona and vice-chaired by Austin Senator Kirk Watson. The committee is comprised of Senators Kim Brimer, Rodney Ellis, Robert Nichols, Tommy Williams, Jeff Wentworth, Eliot Shapleigh and Florence Shapiro.

Session video and all other webcast recordings can be accessed from the Senate website's audio and video archive pages.

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