Senator Mazurek, Representative Theriault, and members of the Joint Standing Committee on Transportation. My name is Pete Didisheim, I am the Advocacy Director for the Natural Resources Council of Maine, and I appreciate this opportunity to testify in opposition to LD 483.
LD 483 is similar to legislation that this Committee considered two years ago and rejected soundly with a 13-0 Ought Not to Pass recommendation. We encourage the committee to vote Ought Not to Pass again with version of the bill.
NRCM does not believe that Maine has too few signs on our roadways. This morning I counted more than 60 on-premises signs in the 1.5 mile stretch from I-95 to the State House. That doesn’t seem like an overly-regulated situation.
And we seriously doubt that a poll of Maine residents, businesses, and visitors to the state would yield data telling us that people want more signs, taller signs, signs closer to the interstate, more obtrusive signs, and more rapidly changing electronic signs.
But those are the “fixes” that LD 483 is proposing to make to the Maine Traveler Information Services Act—commonly known as the anti-billboard law. LD 483 also would drastically change state policy regarding outdoor advertising, reducing the protection of scenic resources in Maine by asserting—wrongly we believe—that only outdoor advertising located off the site of a business is detrimental to scenic resources.
LD 483 would not result in a return of billboards to Maine’s highways, but it would chip away at the carefully crafted laws —the Maine Traveler Information Services Act (MSR 23, Chapter 21) —that ban’s billboards and establishes state policies for balancing the important service that signs play, with the important public policy goal of protecting Maine’s unique scenic resources and the tourism businesses that depend on those resources.
We believe Maine was far-sighted when it adopted the billboard ban law more than 30 years ago, and we would be short-sighted today if we messed with it. If one were to poll people visiting Maine from other states, it seems more likely than not that a majority would wish that their states had a similar law in placeâbecause in most places other than Maine roadside advertising seems totally out-of-control.
Most people now receive travel information from smart phones, GPS devices, and on-board information systems, and that trend is accelerating. A recent study by the Pew Research Center documented that 85% of Americans now have cellphones, and 56% of cellphone owners use their phones to access the internet.
With internet access on their smart phones or tablets, travelers can now access maps, restaurants, hotels, and coffee shops; and reviews of any business of interest. They can download applications (apps) that help them find the nearest Starbucks, Walmart, or dry cleaner. And businesses are using Facebook, email, and other social media advertising to reach customers in a fashion that does much more to get customers in the door than does a taller road sign.
We believe Maine’s laws governing outdoor advertising have served the state well and are the envy of many who visit Maine. LD 483 would substantially undermine that law.
For these reasons, we urge that you vote Ought Not to Pass on LD 483. I appreciate this opportunity to testify and would be glad to answer any questions you may have.