State senators voted 20-8 today to legalize existing lighted digital billboards and potentially allow for more.
The legislation became necessary after the Court of Appeals ruled last year that 70 existing illuminated signs with changing messages are not legal in Arizona. This measure, crafted by the billboard industry, makes the necessary fix. That move drew opposition from the astronomy community amid concerns about light pollution. But Snowflake Republican Sylvia Allen said those fears are misplaced, detailing existing local regulations and noting that nothing in the legislation overrules them.
"Our observatories are protected right now," Allen said. "I feel like when I listed all the things that are going on right now in our state, those protections are not going to be removed."
But Tucson Democrat Olivia Cajero Bedford said that provides little comfort, as the light from the Phoenix area where most of these signs are located already is impairing night skies in Pima County.
"These billboards undermine the $1.2 billion investment in Arizona, the $250 million it generates in grants and funds from other states, and over 3,300 jobs and billions in future grants," Bedford said. "If we pass this bill it signals to the world that Arizona is closed for astronomy."
The House already has approved the legislation, meaning only a final roll-call vote in the Senate is necessary to send the bill to the governor.