By Daniel Stefanski |
A bill to limit a certain government agency’s arsenal of communications is advancing through the Arizona Legislature, though it became a tough sell for Democrats on the House floor after earlier bipartisan votes in committees.
HB 2586, sponsored by Representative Neal Carter, “restricts the Arizona Department of Transportation’s (ADOT) dynamic message signs (DMSs) to display only messages that are directly related to transportation or highway public safety and outlines exceptions,” according to the purpose provided by the State Senate.
During his testimony to the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee, the bill sponsor, Representative Carter, explained that “this bill is the law in other states.” His reasons for introducing the bill were that some of the ADOT freeway signs are a “little bit distracting” because there are messages that may not be related to transportation and otherwise inappropriate to share with commuters; and that there was good cause to worry “about government effectively using it as an advertisement for other things.” He told the committee that this would be worrying “because the people making those decisions should be elected people,” and it would be a “slippery slope” to have bureaucrats at ADOT deciding what to market or message.
When questioned about the legislation by the committee chairman, Representative David Cook, Carter clarified that it would not be the intent of HB 2586 to “specify how to make the messaging” – for example, limiting the creativity of the content as long as it was directly related to transportation. Representative Carter’s chief concern was signs that aren’t communicating directly about transportation – like “No Burn Days.”
Chairman Cook and Carter both agreed that ADOT messaging about vaccines would be a good example of what should not be included on the signs for passersby.
Representative Carter amended his bill to allow “the Arizona Department of Transportation to display reminders to vote on dynamic message signs.”
The bill passed out of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee with a 7-4 vote, with one member absent from the final deliberation. One Democrat voted in support. The Rules Committee unanimously approved the legislation with an 8-0 tally.
On the House floor, Democrat Representative Cesar Aguilar highlighted his opposition to the bill, arguing that the policy “would impact Arizona’s culture of signs we see on the road,” noting his perception that the ADOT “Don’t Drink and Drive” signs would be banned should this legislation be signed into law. Carter rejected that assertion, saying that the aforementioned signs were transportation-related and would not be subjected to the updated regulations of his bill. Carter also touted the bipartisan support for the bill during the committee process. Unlike in committees, though, HB 2586 did not receive any support from Democrats on the House floor, passing 31-28 – with one Democrat member not voting.
HB 2586 was transmitted to the Senate and was approved by the Transportation and Technology Committee earlier this month with a party-line 4-3 vote. It awaits further action from that legislative body.
Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.