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Texas experienced unprecedented economic growth during the automobile era, with a vast highway network developing across the state as a result.  Scenic Texas has worked successfully for years to encourage landscaping of Texas highways and to foster context-sensitive design of highway construction projects.  However, the visual quality of many Texas roadways has deteriorated because of the proliferation of billboards.  Scenic Texas works to reduce billboard blight in Texas, and to stop the construction of new billboards wherever possible.  Scenic Texas is committed to restoring a positive image and preserving the legendary vistas that have made the Lone Star State famous.

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Appeals Court Guts the Texas Highway Beautification Act

On August 29th, the Austin Court of Appeals issued an opinion declaring that key sections of the Texas Highway Beautification Act (TxHBA) are unconstitutional.  As a result, TxDOT’s authority to regulate billboards is eliminated.  This decision (Auspro Enterprises v. Texas Department of Transportation) finds that the bulk of the TxHBA is unconstitutional because it violates the First Amendment free speech clause under a recent U.S. Supreme Court opinion in the case of Reed v. Town of Gilbert.

Neither the Reed nor Auspro case was about off-premise billboards (Reed was about small temporary signs and Auspro involves a “Ron Paul for President” political sign).  Nevertheless, the Court wiped out the entire TxDOT billboard licensing and permitting scheme.  The Court’s remedy was very broad — it could have simply focused only on the provision regarding political signs on private property, all that was at issue in Auspro.

The State and Scenic Texas agree that TxDOT may not regulate non-commercial political speech on private property. Our position is that the Court should modify its remedy so that the primary purpose of the TxHBA — licensing and permitting of outdoor commercial advertising signs — remains in place.

What’s at stake if the Auspro decision stands

  • The state of Texas loses all authority to regulate billboards anywhere on the federal highway system.
  • The State could lose 10% of its federal highway funding for failing to meet a federal mandate to “effectively control outdoor advertising.”
  • The sole enforcement mechanism remaining would be in those Texas cities that have adopted municipal sign codes. Texas counties have no sign regulatory authority.
  • Unregulated, un-permitted, commercial advertising billboards, of any number, size or height, will spring up along highways across the state.

Action plan

  • On September 27th, the Texas Attorney General will ask the Court to grant a Motion for Rehearing to reconsider the remedy in this case.
  • Scenic Texas will file an amicus curaie brief, authored by former Texas Supreme Court Justice Scott Brister, to support the AG’s motion.
  • Scenic Texas is gathering amicus partners on this brief – there is strength in numbers.
  • Join the brief as an amicus partner. Contact Anne Culver at anneculver@scenictexas.org or 713-629-0481 or return the attached form no later than Friday, Sept. 30th.

 

LIST OF AMICUS PARTNERS (as of September 23, 2016)

American Planning Association, Texas Chapter

Gillespie County Economic Development Commission

Harris County   *   Hill Country Alliance

Houston NW Chamber of Commerce  *  Scenic Texas, Inc.

Texas City Attorneys Association   *    Texas Economic Development Council   

Texas Municipal League 

 

Stories from around the state

Houston Chronicle

Houston Chronicle Editorial

Giddings Times & News

Round Rock Leader

 

RECENT BLOG POSTS

Unexpected court ruling delivers setback to Texas Highway Beautification Act

Houston Chronicle – Opponents of billboards and other signs along Texas roadways reacted on Monday with dismay to an appeals court decision striking down significant portions of the Texas Highway Beautification Act, saying the ruling could lead to a litany of signs along federally funded highways.

Read full story

 

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23 Texas Cities Earn Prominent Scenic City Certification in 2016

Cities recognized for excellence in scenic standards, total number of certified cities grows to 66

HOUSTON – Twenty-three Texas municipalities have been awarded Scenic City Certification through the Scenic City Certification Program, a project of Scenic Texas. The Scenic City program supports and recognizes cities for commitment to high-quality scenic standards for public roadways and public spaces. Nine cities are now certified for the first time, and 14 are re-certifying or upgrading existing certification status, bringing the total certified cities in Texas to 66.

Read full press release

CHAPTERS
& AFFILIATES:

  • The Scenic City Certification Program is a project of Scenic Texas. Learn more about Scenic Cities and how your city might become one! read more »

  • Scenic Texas, Inc.