A Kentucky bill that would have saved a “Hell is real” billboard near a major highway was killed after officials learned it could cost the state $42 million in federal funds.
The Larue County billboard, which is privately funded, apparently violates state and federal billboard laws. The Federal Highway Administration sent a letter reminding state officials of the provisions of the federal Highway Beautification Act. That statute mandates that states must keep effective control of outdoor advertisements or risk losing federal money for many transportation–related programs.
“It had nothing to do with the message,” said Chuck Wolfe of the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet. “It was just the cabinet’s position that [such signs] are illegal because of their placement and the potential for distraction. That’s a highway safety issue.”
Despite the huge potential cost to the state, State Rep. Johnny Bell (D-Glasgow) wanted to save the billboard and introduced a measure that would have exempted “non-commercial” messages on private property from the state Transportation’s Cabinet permitting process.
Though the bill sailed through the House 80-16, it died without a vote in the Senate.