Thursday, March 29, 2012

Farley joins noted astronomers in support of the veto of a bill to allow electronic billboards in Arizona

STATE CAPITOL, PHOENIX – Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer’s first veto of the legislative session was HB 2757, a bill that would have threatened the state’s astronomy industry by allowing light-polluting electronic billboards throughout the state. There are efforts to revive the legislation before the end of this session. Today House Assistant Minority Leader Steve Farley, D-Tucson (District 28) along with several noted astronomers discussed the impact that similar legislation could have on an industry that creates thousands of jobs in the state.

“The HB 2757 veto protects a long-standing industry that is unique to Arizona and has created thousands of jobs and generated more than $1.2 billion in economic investment,” Farley said. “I will continue to work with the astronomy community to protect the dark skies that exist here, making it possible for world-renowned astronomy facilities to conduct groundbreaking research.”

Astronomers throughout the state were concerned with both the effect on their high precision observations, and the message to the national and international astronomical community, that would have resulted from passage of HB 2757.

“We thank the governor for her veto. Lowell has been working very hard to bring the $130 million Cherenkov Telescope Array project to Northern Arizona,” Dr. Jeff Hall, Director of Lowell Observatory, the first observatory built in Arizona, said. “Now I can continue to assure the selection committee that Arizona’s commitment to our world-class skies remains strong.”

Kitt Peak Deputy Director Dr. Lori Allen said she is committed to ensuring any future legislation will protect the astronomy industry.
"I'm grateful for the governor's support of our efforts to find a win-win solution regarding the negative impact of electronic billboards on the astronomy community,” Allen said. “I also look forward to working with the Governor's staff and the Arizona Commerce Commission to further the development of astrophysical research in the state of Arizona, and ensure scientific progress while sustaining and growing jobs in the state."

The veto puts the electronic billboards already erected in limbo for the time being. It also gives stakeholders the time needed to craft legislation better suited to the needs of the business community, while ensuring that cutting-edge astronomy in Arizona can and will be continued.

“We at the Smithsonian are very pleased Gov. Brewer came to the conclusion that a veto was the appropriate action,” Gene Gardner from the VERITA Observatory said. “We look forward to continuing to perform astronomy research in Arizona in the future.”

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