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Arizona E-Billboard Expansion Defeated

Arizona E-Billboard Expansion Defeated Image

An example of an electronic message center (or ‘digital billboard’) in Tucson, USA. Photo by John Barentine.

We are pleased to announce the defeat of Arizona House Bill 2507, which would have expanded the allowable range of electronic billboards in the state. Sponsored by State Rep. Sonny Borrelli of Lake Havasu City, the bill would have greatly increased the reach of electronic message centers, or EMCs — commonly called digital billboards — into western Arizona. The restrictions resulted from a compromise in 2012, hammered out between outdoor advertisers and the professional astronomy community. Rep. Borrelli filed the bill at the urging of Lamar Outdoor advertising, which felt excluded from the 2012 talks.

The bill changed the terms of the 2012 deal, but the sponsor did not offer to bring all stakeholders to the negotiating table while the legislation was written. Consequently, the bill was opposed by the Arizona astronomy, planetary science and space science sector, Scenic Arizona and Scenic America, the Astronomical League, the Arizona Optics Industry Association, and the editorial boards of the Arizona Republic, the Sierra Vista Herald, and the News Herald in Rep. Borrelli’s own hometown. IDA opposed the bill for similar reasons, fearing the potential ‘slippery slope’ that would result if it passed. The 2012 compromise keeps digital billboards out of many of the state’s sensitive dark-sky areas, and we believe it should be left in place as a policy that works effectively. House Bill 2507 directly threatened the night sky quality in Grand Canyon-Parashant International Dark Sky Park (map, below).

An Arizona map with overlays showing current and proposed regions in which digital billboards are permitted by law, Grand Canyon-Parashant International Dark Sky Park, and other IDA Dark Sky Places

An Arizona map with overlays showing current (green) and proposed (red) regions in which digital billboards are permitted by law, Grand Canyon-Parashant International Dark Sky Park (blue), and other IDA Dark Sky Places (yellow).

While House Bill 2507 passed the Arizona House of Representatives, we are pleased to report that it failed to pass the Senate Commerce and Workforce Development Committee on March 14 on a vote of 3-6. In a show of support for the 2012 compromise law, state Senators of both major political parties cited their concerns about threats to the Arizona astronomy enterprise. With the end of the current legislative session looming, it is unlikely that the bill will be reintroduced this year. IDA will remain vigilant in coming years to identify future legislative threats to the 2012 compromise, and to lead appropriate opposition to them.

As is often said, it truly “takes a village” full of concerned individuals to bring about results such as the defeat of House Bill 2507. We are so grateful to all our IDA members who made phone calls, submitted letters and emails, and even made personal visits to the Capitol to urge their legislators to save Arizona’s dark night skies by voting down this bad bill.

The Milky Way hangs in the night sky over Grand Canyon-Parashant International Night Sky Province, Arizona. Photo by Bob Wick / BLM.

The Milky Way hangs in the night sky over Grand Canyon-Parashant International Night Sky Province, Arizona. Photo by Bob Wick / BLM.

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