Bill to allow ads on school buses gets second chance

February 24th, 2011 by Staff – A bill to allow advertisements on school buses is back up and running after an initial crash and burn.

The House voted 42-30 Tuesday to advance HB199 to the Senate after initially voting down the bill last month. The bill failed the first time after some lawmakers worried the ads would distract drivers, causing safety issues.

But lawmakers agreed to reconsider it Tuesday at the request of sponsor Rep. Jim Bird, R-West Jordan. Before voting to pass it, lawmakers amended the bill to limit the size of ads to no more than 35 percent of the side of a bus. They also amended it so money earned from ads would go back toward student transportation costs.

Bird has called the bill an opportunity to help cash strapped schools, and the Office of the Legislative Fiscal Analyst has estimated it could bring in as much as $3.3 million for school districts, with each bus earning about $750 to $1,500 a year. The Jordan Board of Education, which eliminated most busing on routes considered hazardous for walking children because of a budget shortfall, has endorsed Bird’s bill.

At least one lawmaker, Rep. Don Ipson, R-St. George, still had concerns about safety Tuesday. But Bird told lawmakers the Utah Transit Authority told him they hadn’t heard of an accident where the cause could be tied to bus advertising.

Rep. Johnny Anderson, R-Taylorsville, said he didn’t want to see government compete with the private sector. He likened allowing ads on school buses to allowing school cafeterias to open in the evenings and compete with local restaurants.

“By doing this we’re forcing other outdoor advertisers to compete with their own tax dollars,” Anderson said.

But Bird said he doesn’t think that will be the case, and schools already display ads, such as in gymnasiums. Some states already allow ads on buses.

“I think we can make this kind of decision … and let the local boards make the decision whether or not this is a good idea for their districts,” said Rep. Michael Morley, R-Spanish Fork.

The bill also requires the advertising to be “age appropriate,” prohibiting ads containing sexual and political material as well as ads promoting illegal substances and activities for minors such as alcohol, tobacco, drugs and gambling. And it prohibits ads on the fronts or backs of buses.

The bill now moves to the Senate.

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