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MDN.ORG Mo. Digital News Missouri Digital News MDN.ORG: Mo. Digital News MDN.ORG: Missouri Digital News

Legislature could resurrect billboard proposition

November 29, 2000
By: Katy Scott
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - Despite election day results, the billboard proposal may not have died on Nov. 7.

Groups on both sides of Proposition A, which would have limited the number and type of billboards in Missouri, said they plan to bring similar legislation before the General Assembly in the legislative session that begins in January. The groups, however, have not yet written the bills they intend to propose.

Save Our Scenery, one group behind the proposition, plans to rewrite the bill to make it more clear and bring it before the legislature, said Julius Zomper, spokesman for the group.

Bill May, executive director of the Missouri Outdoor Advertising Association, said that although his group opposed the proposition, it also plans to either introduce or support an alternate bill that would regulate billboards in the state.

"As far as the outdoor advertising industry is concerned, while we did win this election, it was a close vote, which indicates at least a minority of people believe there are enough billboards or too many," he said. "We will try to address the concerns of those who feel there are too many billboards, but we still oppose the radical agenda (Save Our Scenery) advocates."

Amelia Cottle of Scenic Missouri, another group that supported the proposition, said such alternate legislation would change little in the billboard industry and is basically what the industry has been pushing all along.

Because Proposition A was defeated by only about 2 percent of the vote three weeks ago, Zomper said Save Our Scenery believes its bill will have enough backing to pass into law.

"All the evidence from the election is it had tremendous popular support," he said.

Cottle, whose group has not yet decided whether it will push to bring Proposition A to the legislature, said the proposed law gained a great deal of support in the face of the wealthy billboard industry on Nov. 7, which should be enough to push the legislation further.

"There were many, many people who voted in favor of this bill," she said. "We really were the Davids facing Goliath."

But May said he doubts the legislature will consider Save Our Scenery's bill, even if it is rewritten.

"I don't know how these people think the legislature is going to ignore the will of the people," May said. "This came before the voters because the legislature didn't want to act on it."

Zomper charged the main reason the proposition was defeated by voters was because of false claims made by opposition groups, including the Missouri Outdoor Advertising Association. Those groups said the proposition would cost taxpayers $500 million, a claim Zomper said "really wasn't true."

After TV commercials began airing what Save Our Scenery called misleading information, the group filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission, but Zomper said it is not likely it will take any further legal action on the issue.

May, however, called the complaint a publicity stunt.

"Our numbers were backed up by studies from experts," he said.

Zomper said Save Our Scenery could rewrite the bill in such a way as to clear up any worries about a strain on taxpayers. He also said the group is confident Gov.-elect Bob Holden will sign the bill.

But, he said, passage is by no means in the bag.

"The billboard industry can spend a lot of money not only on campaigning, but on lobbying," he said.