Today the Joint Standing Committee on Transportation held a Work Session on LD 1405 "An Act To Amend the Laws Restricting Advertising on Public Ways", sponsored by Representative Dennis Keschl, which proposes to significantly expand the current limitations on on-premise signage. The Work Session follows a well attended Public Hearing held by the Transportation Committee on April 26th on this bill and LD 1367 which includes a provision to allow the limited use of billboards on state highways. Along with a large number of citizens and organizations, GrowSmart Maine presented testimony at the Public Hearing in strong opposition to the proposed legislation. Allowing bill boards would damage Maine's unique quality of place while adding little or no value to the businesses who might lease them.
We attended the Work Session along with many of the same individuals and organizations that attended the Public Hearing. The committee reviewed a letter from the Federal Highway Administration regarding the possible impact of LD 1405 and FHA requirements. The letter was presented by Mark Hasselman, Right of Way & Environment Program Manager from the Augusta Office of the FHA. Mr. Hasselman stated that the provisions of LD 1405 would require a significantly higher enforcement effort by the state and that failure to do so could result in the loss of up to 10% of FHA funding. Karen Doyle, Director of Finance & Administration for the Department of Transportation, then stated to the committee that 10% of annual FHA funding would be in the $16 to $17 million range.
Further discussion from committee members included support from Representative Peter Rioux (Winterport) for the provision in LD 1405 which would allow the expanded use of real estate broker signs. Further discussion on this topic among committee members indicated a belief that this was more properly a municipal issue and should be dealt with on that level before statewide legislation is contemplated.
Senator Ron Collins (York), Senate Chair of the Transportation Committee, then made a motion that LD 1405 Ought Not To Pass. This motion was unanimously adopted by the eleven committee members in attendance.