Scenic Byways Win
Lady Bird Johnson would be doing a jig over the defeat of House Bill 407, the billboard industry's definition of "scenic." In 1965, the Highway Beautification Act was passed to protect the natural beauty along highways largely in rural areas. Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, apparently saw scenic beauty in a different light. For Noel, the concept of property rights is not so much about protecting property values as it is "the right to do anything without thought about how it might affect anyone or anything else, even the state of the state," Ty Markham wrote in the Park Record. The bill would have allowed property owners to "opt out" of the scenic byway designation and erect billboards on small portions of their land. Senate Majority Leader Ralph Okerland, R-Monroe, brought up the bill at midnight on the last day of the session, hoping to pass it when no one was looking. It died for lack of a look.
Directional Signs OK
Noel's bill might have been "the tit for the tat" over the passage of House Bill 269. That was a bill to allow UDOT to place directional signs in rural areas. Those are the square highway signs that tell travelers of restaurants and lodging in the area. Come on, these are not billboards. But the billboard industry fought them nonetheless. In 2010, the Legislature, for some reason, agreed that UDOT should not administer the sign program in rural areas. John Holland, the Byway Coordinator for Scenic Byway 12, shepherded the bill through as a small shout-out to economic development in rural areas. The "not-a-billboard" legislation passed despite the billboard industry's lobbying.
Different Rules Apply
Thanks goes to Rep. Becky Edwards, R-North Salt Lake, for passing House Bill 226 in a Legislature that wasn't all that friendly to air-quality legislation. Edwards' bill would have allowed the Division of Air Quality to draft its own regulations even if they were stricter than the federal government's. The idea was for Utah experts to create and adopt Utah-specific solutions to air problems. The bill has been debated for years and nearly died because of wording that didn't play well with Edwards' GOP colleagues. So, she changed the wording from "more stringent rules" to "different rules," and the bill passed. "Different" did it, she said. "We can only be different going in one direction." Strictly speaking.