Washington Legislature considers measure to allow more digital billboards

The Washington State Legislature is considering measures that have the local astronomy community concerned about the potential of increased light pollution in the state. Senate Bill 5304 and an identical companion House Bill 1408 would change the law to give cities and towns in the state the option to allow electronic billboards within their boundaries.

Both bills received hearings Feb. 5 and must be voted on by committees in the next few weeks for the proposal to have a chance to become law. The House Transportation Committee has a deadline of Feb. 22 to take action on HB 1408, while the Senate Transportation Committee has until March 1 to consider SB 5304.

Proponents of the bill–mainly Clear Channel Outdoor Seattle, the billboard company–touted the traffic safety and amber alert messages that could be given via the billboards, as well as support the company could offer through billboard advertisements on behalf of nonprofit enterprises. Meanwhile opponents contended the billboards would be unsightly and create a distraction for motorists.

David Ingram of Dark Skies Northwest spoke on behalf of the astronomy community, raising concern about the light pollution that the electronic billboards would cause, and also alluding to ill effects of nighttime lighting on human health and wildlife.

The following two videos are from TVW coverage of the Senate Transportation Committee hearing about SB 5304. The first includes committee staff explanation–sort of–of the measure and discussion among committee members. The second includes testimony from citizens for and against the bill.