Improving Commercial Sign Regulations: A Preliminary Framework to Evaluate Commercial Sign Regulations in Texas
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Legislative efforts to regulate commercial signs or outdoor advertising in the United States have met repeated contest from those who are regulated by poorly drafted sign code. Historically such codes utilized the content of signs to determine how the sign would be regulated, differentiating the treatment of signs according to message and speaker. Repeated litigation finds that this methodology infringes on first amendment protections of speech making such legislation unconstitutional. The purpose of this applied research project consists of three portions. The primary purpose is to develop a preliminary framework to be used in evaluating commercial signs regulatory legislation in Texas. The secondary purpose is to assess the utility of the framework by using it to evaluate Texas’ existing commercial signs legislation. Third, the research provides recommendations to improve legislation and the framework. The preliminary framework developed as a product of this research is based on four categories fleshed out in the literature review: Constitutionality and Defensibility, Establishment of Effective Control, Societal Implications and Program Administration. These broad categories are sub-divided and operationalized into formulated questions used to evaluate Texas Transportation Code Chapter 391 and associated rules Title 43 Texas Administrative Code Subchapter 21: I (43 TAC 21: I) and Texas Transportation Code Chapter 394 and associated rules Title 43 Texas Administrative Code Subchapter 21: K (43 TAC 21: K). The evaluation discovered that the framework is functional for analyzing commercial sign legislation for its alignment with the four categories. The results find that Texas Transportation Code Chapter 394 and associated rules Title 43 Texas Administrative Code Subchapter 21: K align poorly to the framework which may suggest that if challenged, they could be found to be unconstitutional.