Legislature(2003 - 2004)

04/05/2004 08:00 AM JUD

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
       CSHB 230(STA)-POLITICAL SIGNS ON PRIVATE PROPERTY                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR.  TODD LARKIN,  staff to  Representative  Holm, recapped  that                                                               
CSHB 230(STA) will  allow people to put political  signs on their                                                               
private property in certain areas. He stated:                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
     In  an effort  to comply  with federal  law and  retain                                                                    
     highway  funds, the  state's been  very restrictive  in                                                                    
     its handling  of signage.  The state  has traditionally                                                                    
     restricted  all  political   signage  within  660  feet                                                                    
     within  the edge  of road  right-of-ways in  the state.                                                                    
     After  several conversations  with the  Federal Highway                                                                    
     Administration,  we discovered  that...our restrictions                                                                    
     were excessive  and may  not be  necessary in  order to                                                                    
     retain those same  highway funds. And so,  HB 230 seeks                                                                    
     to  give  those  free  speech rights  back  to  private                                                                    
     property  owners inside  of this  660 foot  margin that                                                                    
     was established  by the Federal  Highway Beautification                                                                    
     Act   of,  I   think,  1974.   So  that's   what  we're                                                                    
     discussing, is whether  or not you can  put a political                                                                    
     sign  on your  private  property in  this rather  large                                                                    
     margin. There's  more specific language in  the bill. I                                                                    
     don't know if we're taking  questions now or we're just                                                                    
     introducing so I'll leave it at that.                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR OGAN said it has  been his experience that the Department                                                               
of Transportation  and Public Facilities (DOTPF)  doesn't enforce                                                               
the 660-foot ban  unless a sign is actually  in the right-of-way,                                                               
and not even then sometimes. He thinks  it is a good idea to work                                                               
on the law because probably everyone  who has ever run for office                                                               
has been cross-vetted with the existing law.                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS noted  that he has seen  some selective enforcement                                                               
in the  Fairbanks area. There  being no further questions  of the                                                               
sponsor, he took public testimony.                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
MR. MYRL THOMPSON, representing himself,  said he would like some                                                               
clarification.  He noted  a comment  that many  signs are  posted                                                               
"24-7" in  the Mat-Su  Valley. He  said he is  not sure  how that                                                               
should be addressed. He continued:                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                
     On the  part of  this that  talks about  the conjoining                                                                    
     signs, I'm just wondering that  if the signs are ½ inch                                                                    
     apart are  they considered  adjoining signs,  because I                                                                    
     know  a number  of instances  where that  is the  case,                                                                    
     where there's sign after sign  after sign and sometimes                                                                    
     on private  property, sometimes actually on  the right-                                                                    
     of-way. And  under the current relevance  clause, which                                                                    
     I believe is (i) under (d),  what if the sign would say                                                                    
     something like  'Jesus wants  you to  vote Republican.'                                                                    
     Would  that be  included  here? The  subject matter,  I                                                                    
     guess you could argue, would  be relevant to the second                                                                    
     coming or  another instance  may be  'Mohammed Supports                                                                    
     Closed Caucuses'.                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS  interjected and said  that current relevance  is a                                                               
term of art.                                                                                                                    
                                                                                                                                
MR. THOMPSON asked what would distinguish that.                                                                                 
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS said he would say  whether or not it is a political                                                               
advertisement.                                                                                                                  
                                                                                                                                
MR. THOMPSON questioned what would  happen if someone put up such                                                               
a sign.                                                                                                                         
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS said he doesn't  know that that would be considered                                                               
to  be  a   political  advertisement.  If  it   fell  within  the                                                               
definition, it would fall under the statutes.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MR. THOMPSON said he believes it would be a loophole.                                                                           
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  SEEKINS disagreed  and asked  Mr. Thompson  if he  had any                                                               
suggestions to improve the proposal before the committee.                                                                       
                                                                                                                                
MR. THOMPSON said he wonders about the need for the legislation.                                                                
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR SEEKINS  directed Mr. Thompson  to the sponsor  and thanked                                                               
him  for his  testimony.  He then  announced  that CSHB  230(STA)                                                               
would be brought up again as the committee was out of time.                                                                     
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  OGAN asked  that the  language on  page 2,  line 15,  be                                                               
clarified  at the  next hearing.  He questioned  what "per  side"                                                               
means.                                                                                                                          
                                                                                                                                
MR. LARKIN  replied the displayed face  is one side of  the sign.                                                               
Therefore, both sides of a sheet  of plywood could be painted but                                                               
could not exceed that total size.                                                                                               
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR OGAN suggested saying 32 square feet.                                                                                   
                                                                                                                                
MR. LARKIN  said, in  response to  Mr. Thompson's  question, "Mr.                                                               
Chairman, (i)  - the  gentleman had a  question on  that, they're                                                               
not separable  really. One refers  to the next  and so you  get a                                                               
much clearer  definition when you  take them together, as  far as                                                               
what kinds of signs you're talking about."                                                                                      
                                                                                                                                
SENATOR  THERRIAULT said  when those  two are  read together,  it                                                               
ties it to an upcoming election.                                                                                                
                                                                                                                                
CHAIR  SEEKINS agreed.  He then  adjourned the  meeting at  10:05                                                               
a.m.                                                                                                                            

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