Advertising Amber Alerts and Lucky Strikes

Cal Trans presented a request to the Senate Budget Subcommittee today asking for trailer bill language to approve adding paid advertising on 50 changeable freeway message signs – but then said they don’t really need the state’s permission because they’ve already asked the federal government.

Senator Alan Lowenthal, D-Long Beach, asked Cal Trans representatives, “So you want trailer bill language but don’t need it?” He then asked how Cal Trans can do this in light of the state’s Outdoor Advertising Act which prohibits outdoor signage on landscaped freeways. Cal Trans reps answered that they think the law already allows for their advertisements and are merely covering all bases with the trailer bill language.

There are concerns how this might impact safety and cause driving distractions, but Cal Trans said they have not identified any studies stating that this could be dangerous. The purpose of the advertising would be to raise revenues  but Cal Trans representatives said they do not know if the revenue will go to the general fund or to a specific fund.

Lowenthal said he feels strongly about the process of introducing exemptions, and added that the law is clearly defined. He asked, “What is currently advertising Amber Alerts are going to become advertisements for Lucky Strikes?”

Committee Chair Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, said he is very cautious and concerned about safety and distracted driver issues, as well as the state trying to justify raising revenues while potentially endangering Californians. “Is this where we are headed funding the state of California?” Simitain asked. Simitian likened the issue to Indian gaming; no one wants an Indian casino in their neighborhood, but they do want the state services and programs, without paying higher taxes, that the Indian gaming tax revenues provide.

The issue was held open.

– Katy Grimes

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