Decision is Expected by June 2022
On November 10, 2021, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in City of Austin v. Reagan National Advertising. The case concerns whether or not Austin’s ban of off-premise digital signs is content-neutral, and how First Amendment scrutiny could apply to different messages.
The case has tremendous implications. If the U.S. Supreme Court upholds the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals’ opinion favoring Reagan, billboard bans and sign ordinances in other communities will be unenforceable, limiting the ability of state and local governments to restrict billboard advertising and undoing much of the Highway Beautification Act.
Missouri, which makes a distinction in its regulations governing on-premise (not regulated) and off-premise signs, will certainly be impacted by a decision which overturns those rules. Outdoor Advertising has already proposed sweeping changes to Missouri’s sign law (SB 1101) in anticipation of the court’s decision. Scenic Missouri opposes these changes.
Scenic America and its chapters and affiliates—including Scenic Missouri– have joined an amici curiae brief in support of Austin’s position. This brief argues that billboards are a uniquely annoying type of land use that can be banned to protect property rights. For the first time, major real estate developers and chambers of commerce have also signed on to this brief, which states, “Off-premise restrictions are based on billboards’ impact on neighboring property. They are embedded in thousands of sign codes. Affirming (Regan) would cause severe disruption and costs for property owners and developers.”
See the Scenic America website for more details.