Legislature(1995 - 1996)
02/29/1996 03:30 PM STA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SSTA - 2/29/96 SB 181 PROHIBITED HIGHWAY ADVERTISING TAPE 96-16, SIDE A Number 001 CHAIRMAN SHARP called the Senate State Affairs Committee to order at 3:30 p.m. and brought up SB 181 as the first order of business before the committee. The chairman called the sponsor's representative to testify. Number 020 BRETT HUBER, Aide to Senator Lyda Green, prime sponsor of SB 181, read the sponsor's statement for SB 181. SB 181 would provide for the TODS (Tourist Oriented Directional Signs) Program in statute. Mr. Huber noted that there is a sectional analysis of the legislation in committee members' packets. Number 050 SENATOR LEMAN asked if the TODS program is the same as the identification signs that he sees along the highways. MR. HUBER replied that is the TODS program. The TODS signs are the blue, 90x18 inch directional signs. MICHAEL MORRIS, Regional Director, Alaska Campground Owners Association, testifying from Anchorage, supports SB 207, and has submitted written testimony to that effect. TODS signs not only help the campgrounds, but help visitors immensely. Number 100 BONNY EBY, Owner, Willow Trading Post Lodge, testifying from Matsu, stated that the signs help, but they should be larger. They are also expensive for the small business person. She also has a problem with the fact that the signs are not transferrable when a business is sold. She also thinks that for the amount of money the signs cost, there should be upkeep on the signs, such as snow removal. Number 135 LARAE ELDRIDGE, Owner, Big Lake Motel, testifying from Matsu, supports SB 181. But she stated that the community sign posted below hers does not comply with the TODS program and is illegal. She would appreciate it if the state would get Big Lake a green geographical sign, just like everyone else. She also objects to the adopt-a-highway signs. Number 185 JERRE WROBLE, Program Administrator, Matsu Convention & Visitors' Bureau, testifying from Matsu, supports SB 181. She stated that highway signs are essential for their survival. Ms. Wroble mentioned some problems with the TODS program, including one woman who would have been required to hire a licensed contractor to install the sign, even though her husband was a contractor. The regulations and expense make it difficult for new businesses to get going. In principal, the MSCVB supports the TODS program, as long as all its' members are allowed to participate without undue regulation and expense. Number 240 TINA LINDGREN, Executive Director, Alaska Visitors' Association, supports SB 181. Committee members have two letters in support of this legislation in their bill packets from Ms. Lindgren: one dated October 17, 1995, and the other dated February 23, 1996. Number 260 CHAIRMAN SHARP asked Mr. Rasmussen from the Department of Transportation about the fiscal note from the department. Doesn't SB 181 propose the exact same signage as allowed now under the TODS program? If so, why is the fiscal note for such a large amount of money? Number 275 LOREN RASMUSSEN, Acting Director, Division of Engineering & Operations, Department of Transportation, stated there is a difference between how SB 181 is written, and how the TODS program works: the TODS program is a directional sign that is literally on the shoulder of the road. Those are the little, blue signs one sees in the Matsu Valley, on the Kenai Peninsula, and a few other areas of the state. SB 181 tries to utilize the same technique, but putting the signs outside the right-of-way, which then makes them advertising signs, which would be different from the TODS program. Advertising signs outside the right-of-way are controversial. So we would have to promulgate those regulations with the Department of Law and would have to have public hearings on those regulations. That is where the costs in the fiscal note originate. Number 300 SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS asked if there would be a difference in the size of the signs. MR. RASMUSSEN is not sure what size the signs would be; he thinks that would be determined by regulation. Currently, the size of a sign with a single business on it is 90x18 inches. 18 inches can be added for each additional business on a sign, with up to a total of three businesses per sign. SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS thinks the signs would still be 90x18 inches high. CHAIRMAN SHARP noted that the legislation lists the same size as that of the TODS program. SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS noted that since the size of the signs is the same in both the TODS program and SB 181, the only fundamental difference is that signs would be allowed outside the right-of-way. He asked if any other jurisdictions have this. MR. RASMUSSEN responded, none that he could find, and they checked with 11 other states. Other states have these types of signs on highways, but none have them out of the right-of-way. CHAIRMAN SHARP asked about costs for the TODS permits. MR. RASMUSSEN replied that the application fee is $100.00, and there is a $200.00 inspection fee once the sign is in place. CHAIRMAN SHARP asked if DOT puts a sign up for that price. MR. RASMUSSEN responded DOT does the permitting and the inspection, but the owner buys, installs, and maintains the sign. SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS asked why someone complained about DOT's maintenance of signs, if DOT doesn't maintain them. MR. RASMUSSEN responded the complaint was that DOT doesn't maintain the signs. SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS asked if that was part of the agreement. MR. RASMUSSEN responded that is part of the agreement. SENATOR DUNCAN asked if there is a departmental position on SB 181. MR. RASMUSSEN thinks the department would take the same position the previous administration took. SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS asked what that was. MR. RASMUSSEN did not think it was very favorable. If a position paper is requested, DOT would certainly submit it. SENATOR DUNCAN commented he can understand the reason behind the department's concerns. CHAIRMAN SHARP stated he did not know the reasons behind their concerns. SENATOR DUNCAN said that's why he is asking for a position paper. He would ask for a position paper, unless the chairman doesn't want one. CHAIRMAN SHARP responded, if DOT cares to submit a position statement, he would sure like to see it. He asks that paper be submitted to committee staff. SENATOR DUNCAN stated he is not suggesting the State Affairs Committee hold the bill for the position paper; he would just like to see it before the bill reaches the floor. CHAIRMAN SHARP called the mayor of Wasilla to testify. Number 375 JOHN STEIN, Mayor of Wasilla, testifying from Matsu, supports SB 181. He does not understand why off-right-of-way signs need to be in the legislation, because he believes property owners whose property abuts the highway have a right to put up advertising signs. He thinks federal law would allow that. He hopes that the law would not allow off-site advertising other than something like the TODS program. Mayor Stein stated one of the biggest frustration business owners have regarding the signs is that DOT knocks them down during snow plowing. Number 410 SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS asked what Mayor Stein thinks about having signs out of the right-of-way. MAYOR STEIN responded he does not see a need to have this type of sign out of the right-of-way. Number 440 SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS made a motion to adopt the committee substitute for SB 181. CHAIRMAN SHARP, hearing no objection, stated the committee substitute was adopted. CHAIRMAN SHARP stated he personally doesn't have a problem with having these signs off the right-of-way. The main problem he sees is that sometimes one cannot read the signs, because they're covered with snow. If the signs were off the right-of-way, they might not get plastered with snow by the snowplows. SENATOR LEMAN stated his only concern regards the number of signs and repetition of signs. CHAIRMAN SHARP shares Senator Leman's concern, but he thinks that would probably be addressed through regulation. SENATOR LEMAN has concern with the $40,000 fiscal note. CHAIRMAN SHARP would just as soon send the bill to the Finance Committee and let them address the fiscal note. He doesn't like zeroing out fiscal notes in State Affairs, unless it was the committee's own fiscal note. Number 485 SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS asked if there is anyone in Matsu who would comment on the within and outside the right-of-way. Number 495 MS. EBY believes that inside the right-of-way signs are more legible. SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS noted that the bill specifies that signs shall be located within and outside of the right-of-way of the interstate. He asked for feedback regarding striking "outside" from SB 181. MS. EBY thinks signs should be within the right-of-way. CHAIRMAN SHARP thinks more than "outside" would have to be struck from the bill. SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS wants to know if most of the people in Matsu would like to see signs just within the right-of-way. MS. WROBLE stated she also wondered why signs would be allowed outside the right-of-way the first time she saw SB 181. But a situation that supports that provision concerns a business she knows of which is on the highway, but is around the bend. If you didn't know about that business, you would drive right past it. The owner of that business has a small sign on her property just off the right-of-way. The owner does not qualify for the TODS program because her business is on the highway, so Ms. Wroble thinks "outside the right-of-way" would serve someone in that type of situation. SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS stated that most testimony seems to be supporting just having signs within the right-of-way. But we can take care of that in the Finance Committee. SENATOR DUNCAN thinks that whole subsection could be removed. MR. HUBER stated Senator Green has been contacted by numerous people wanting directional signs outside the right-of-way. Senator Green is looking for the smallest and most uniform system allowing signs on private property. Number 530 SENATOR DUNCAN made a motion to delete Section (4). CHAIRMAN SHARP informed Senator Duncan that Section (4) is the section mandating the directional sign program. SENATOR DUNCAN asked if that is so. MR. HUBER responded that Section (4) is actually the portion of SB 181 that puts the TODS program in statute. There is no current law or current regulations under TODS. SENATOR DUNCAN asked Mr. Huber if he is suggesting that we need part of Section (4), but not all of Section (4). MR. HUBER replied it is the sponsor's position that all of Section (4) is desirable. SENATOR DUNCAN said he knows that. He wants to ask someone who is not biased, if he can find anybody. What language of Section (4) is necessary for establishing the program, but would still allow deletion of "outside the right-of-way". Maybe DOT would respond; he knows very well the sponsor's position. SENATOR LEMAN said that DOT is probably biased too. SENATOR DUNCAN stated that's what he said: he doesn't think they can find anyone who's not biased. MR. RASMUSSEN stated he would be reluctant to make amendments without reading the whole bill through. It would be the department's desire to keep the TODS program in place right now. It's allowed under the MUTCED and the rest of our program, and we've never been challenged on that. Number 566 SENATOR DUNCAN offered a conceptual amendment not allowing signs outside the right-of-way. CHAIRMAN SHARP objected to that amendment. SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS asked for clarification on where TODS signs are allowed today. MR. RASMUSSEN responded that TODS signs are allowed within the right-of-way. Anything outside the right-of-way would be considered an advertisement, and present state law forbids that. CHAIRMAN SHARP noted that SB 181 would make those signs directional. MR. RASMUSSEN replied that is the attempt; but it is very difficult to have directional signs outside the right-of-way. CHAIRMAN SHARP asked that the roll be called on Senator Duncan's motion. The amendment failed, 2 yeas, 2 nays, and 1 absent. Voting in favor of the motion are Senators Phillips and Duncan. Voting in opposition are Senators Leman and Sharp. Senator Donley is absent. CHAIRMAN SHARP asked the pleasure of the committee. Number 580 SENATOR LEMAN made a motion to discharge SB 181 with accompanying fiscal note [DOT, $40,000]. CHAIRMAN SHARP noted that the bill will need a referral to the Finance Committee. He also noted that the committee would like a position statement from DOT. The chairman asked if there was objection to moving the bill from committee. TAPE 96-16, SIDE B CHAIRMAN SHARP, hearing no objection, stated CSSSSB 181(STA) was discharged from the Senate State Affairs Committee with individual recommendations.