Legislature(1993 - 1994)
03/23/1993 03:35 PM TRA
* first hearing in first committee of referral
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
The first order of business was SB 157 (PROHIBITED HIGHWAY ADVERTISING). SENATOR FRANK, sponsor of the measure, explained the bill is identical to legislation introduced in the House by Representative Menard. He said he has received complaints from people who aren't allowed to advertise or put up signs that would direct people to their businesses. He referred to his own situation and said DOT/PF made him remove a sign that directed people to his place of business. Senator Frank pointed out that state law is more restrictive than federal law. The federal law, commonly known as the Lady Bird Law, outlaws outdoor advertising. It does allow for exceptions in areas that are zoned for commercial or industrial use. State law doesn't contain that allowable use. The purpose of the bill is to make state law more in conformance with federal law. Senator Frank said it is important to recognize that local governments still have the authority to regulate signage and would still have that right under the proposed legislation. He introduced David Skidmore of his staff, and indicated he would give more detailed testimony. DAVID SKIDMORE, legislative staff to Senator Frank, came before the committee. SENATOR LINCOLN referred to page 1, line 6, "outdoor advertising is permitted outside the right- of-way of a state highway," and asked if that means that there are no limits in the bill on the size, content, light level, noise, etc. SENATOR FRANK said he is talking about private property and indicated that there aren't limitations. Senator Lincoln asked if the advertising could be anything that the private owner would agree to relating to size, etc. Senator Frank said he believes so. Senator Lincoln referred to page 2, line 12, and questioned the meaning of "public nuisance." Senator Frank said he doesn't know what the answer is. Senator Lincoln said according to DOT/PF's position paper they have indicated that they are neutral on the bill. She said there is a zero fiscal note and the department indicated there would be additional work for their crews. The position paper also states the department has concern with billboards being an encroachment on scenic beauty. The Division of Tourism considers the highway system to be the single largest attraction for visitors visiting the Alaska. The consequences will be that businesses located at similar highway settings will be treated differently under the law. Senator Lincoln said it is unclear to her as to whether the department supports the bill and whether a fiscal note is involved. She referred to page 2 of the fiscal note, "There is likely to be an increase in illegal signs as businesses to try to equalize their visibility with businesses located along highways where the relaxed advertising standards would apply." Senator Lincoln said the position of the department isn't clear. SENATOR FRANK said currently the department spends money telling people to take down their signs. They also spend money taking signs down. Businesses along the highway have expressed frustration that they can't advertise their business or direct someone to their business. It is inconvenient for the traveling public that is trying to find a place of business. Senator Frank said he doesn't know what the department's position is as they do seem to be vague. He said it isn't his intent not to have restrictions. Senator Frank said he hopes that during the committee process a reasonable set of restrictions can be developed which would help businesses along the highway and, at the same time, not result in some of the onerous undesirable billboard advertising. CHAIRMAN SHARP said there are still remaining mandates and restrictions on certain category roads throughout Alaska. He said it is his understanding that signs will be allowed on private land in areas not prohibited by the federal government. SENATOR FRANK said he would work with the committee to try and write amendments to accomplish the purpose but not open it up to an undesirable situation. DAVID SKIDMORE, legislative staff to Senator Frank, said the legislation would repeal the statutory basis for Alaska's comprehensive prohibition of roadside outdoor advertising. The intent is to bring state law in conformance with federal law. Currently, Alaska statute provides that all outdoor roadside advertising is prohibited except as provided in AS 19.25.105. The statute provides that such advertising is prohibited within 660 feet of the nearest edge of the right- of-way along an interstate, primary, or secondary highway except for the following types of signs: (1) Official signs and notices; (2) Signs advertising property sale or lease; (3) Landmark signs, school signs, and advertising on bus benches and shelters. Mr. Skidmore said current federal law, Title 23 of the U.S. Code Section 131, prohibits most outdoor advertising along interstate and primary highways while secondary highways are not regulated by the federal government. However, with regard to the interstate and primary highways, there are two significant exceptions. Section 131 of Title 23 provides that, "signs may be erected and maintained within 660 feet of the nearest edge of the right-of-way within areas adjacent to an interstate and primary systems which are zoned industrial or commercial under authority of state law or in unzoned commercial or industrial areas as may be determined by agreement between the several states and the secretary." Mr. Skidmore said the reference to unzoned areas will apply where the land use pattern fits the designation of industrial or commercial. He referred to unzoned commercial and industrial activity and pointed out that according to Jeff Ottesen, Chief Right- of-Way agent for DOT/PF, one business enterprise would create an area eligible for off premise outdoor advertising. Federal law does allow for exceptions in commercial and industrial areas along interstate and primary highways, but does not regulate such activity along secondary highways. Mr. Skidmore said there has been some confusion as to which highways would be effected by the bill as the 1991 Intermodel Surface Transportation Efficiency Act (ISTEA) did away with the interstate, primary, and secondary highway classification system and replaced it with a national highway system. He noted the federal government does plan to continue to utilize the same highway classification scheme in dealing solely with outdoor advertising for those highways which were classified as interstate or primary at the date of passage of ISTEA. Section 10.46 of ISTEA did amend federal law to stipulate that most new signs may not be erected along highways that are designated scenic byways under a state program. That means if and when DOT/PF does establish a scenic highway road system in Alaska, those positions which are made up of highways that were classified interstate or primary as of the passage of ISTEA, will not be subject to the industrial commercial signage exception. Mr. Skidmore explained that there are three potential results of SB 157. The first is secondary highways would be released from state restrictions on outdoor advertising. Second, signs could be erected and maintained in areas zoned industrial or commercial along interstate or primary highways. Third, unzoned areas in which commercial or industrial activity takes place would also apparently have the ability to erect and maintain signs. This would facilitate efforts by roadside businesses to make their presence and location known to highway travelers. Number 316 SENATOR RANDY PHILLIPS asked Roger Allington why the state law is so much more restrictive than federal law. ROGER ALLINGTON, Director, Division of Engineering and Operations, DOT/PF, said he doesn't know the answer. He said at the present time the state has an agreement with the Federal Highway Administration that dates back to 1968. SENATOR LINCOLN asked Mr. Allington why the position paper is neutral to the legislation. Mr. Allington said he thinks that probably there are mixed emotions within DOT/PF, officially and individually. He said he believes that there are some legitimate reasons for outdoor advertising signs, but on the other hand, many of us have seen areas, such as Highway 101 out of Los Angeles where you can't see the hill because of all the signs along the right-of-way. Mr. Allington said the department believes that it is public policy position that the legislature needs to address. There being not further testimony, CHAIRMAN SHARP asked that Senator Lincoln's office work with Senator Frank's office on the concerns of the legislation.