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Advertising on Utah public school buses bill moves to House

Published: Wednesday, Jan. 26 2011 5:52 p.m. MST

SALT LAKE CITY — A bill that would allow advertising on sides of public school buses was approved by a House committee Wednesday. 

Sponsoring Rep. Jim Bird, R-West Jordan, said ads on buses could potentially raise $2 million to $3 million in revenue, funds that would be given to the school districts to be used at their discretion. 

"The money isn't earmarked for any particular program," Bird said.

Bird claims revenue brought in by ads could help bring back programs schools have had to cut due to budget constraints, such as bus routes along hazardous walking areas, without raising taxes.

The committee approved an amendment by House Assistant Majority Whip Ronda Menlove, R-Garland, to prohibit promotion of any political party, candidate or issue, in addition to other restrictions. 

HB199 would not allow ads on the back of the bus or any ads that have signs that resemble traffic-control devices. Ads must also be "age appropriate" and promotion of alcohol, tobacco, drugs, gambling and sexual material would not be allowed.

Ultimately, the content of the bus ads will be up to the school boards, Bird said.

Steve Dunham, spokesman for Jordan School District, said their board voiced unanimous support for the bill at its meeting Tuesday.  

"One thing the board appreciates about the bill is that it is a unique way to generate funds without adding an additional burden to taxpayers or patrons in the school district," Dunham said. 

Jared Johnson, director of real estate for YESCO Outdoor Media, expressed opposition over the bill because it puts a state entity in the risky position of regulating which companies would be allowed to advertise. 

"Government agencies are at risk to a much higher degree because they're not in a position to be able to pick and chose what messages are communicated through the media that they are providing," Johnson said. 

The consensus from the House Workforce Services and Community and Economic Development Committee was that ads on buses would generate more revenue for districts in urban areas than rural areas. A parent from Canyons School District asked if there was any way to make the revenue more evenly distributed. Bird referred to the text of the bill in a round-a-bout way of answering "no."

Lawmakers attempted to pass a similar bill last year, but it was killed in the House after groups questioned its safety and raised concerns about kids' vulnerability.

Two nay votes in the committee meeting came from Reps. Keith Grover, R-Provo, and Val Peterson, R-Provo.

The bill now moves to the House floor for consideration.  

E-mail: averzello@desnews.com

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