Senator pushes ban on billboards he considers unacceptable

Senator pushes ban on billboards he considers unacceptable


The way David Farnsworth sees it, billboards should not advertise things that are illegal in Arizona, at least for some.

So the veteran senator from Mesa is proposing to make illegal any sign that “promotes unlawful goods or activities to the public.”

But his legislation does not stop there. SB1294 would also outlaw any billboard that “may be interpreted as contributing to the delinquency of a minor.” And Farnsworth acknowledged that potentially cuts a wide — and politically problematic — swath.

The proposal comes as Sen. Sonny Borrelli, R-Lake Havasu City, has temporarily put the brakes on SB1114, which would allow electronic billboards in his section of northwest Arizona.

That legislation is a slimmed-down version of what Borrelli tried last year, only to be slapped down by colleagues. It had been scheduled for a hearing Monday but Borrelli yanked it from consideration in a bid to line up the votes.

Farnsworth’s measure is designed to deal with a different problem: too much outdoor advertising — at least of the type he considers unacceptable.

He told Capitol Media Services it started with a constituent pointing out a billboard “a few blocks from my house” advertising the annual “Hemp Fest” taking place near Las Vegas. Nevada recently joined other states in making the use of marijuana legal for all adults; the drug is legal in Arizona only for those who have a doctor’s recommendation.

“I was offended by it,” Farnsworth said. The senator said he believes his proposal “will help.”

But potential issues remain.

For example, Farnsworth acknowledged that if billboards cannot promote things that are not legal,  Arizona would preclude Nevada casinos from advertising along Arizona roads.

“The bill as written may be too broad,” he conceded.

And then there’s the language about promoting the delinquency of a minor, defined in existing law as “any act that tends to debate or injure the moral, health or welfare of a child.” Farnsworth said that could be interpreted to preclude advertising of tobacco and alcohol, both items permissible for adults but legally off limits to minors.

“You know my reputation,” Farnsworth said.

“I’m probably the most socially conservative person in the Legislature,” he said. “So it wouldn’t offend me if we outlaw all those things.”

No date has been set for a hearing.