Posted by: Patricia Salkin | July 27, 2015

AZ Appeals Court Holds State Statute Prohibiting Outright Municipal Bans on “Sign Walkers” Regulated a Matter of Statewide Interest and Preempted Municipal Ordinance

Arizona Revised Statutes (“A.R.S.”) § 9–499.13, as amended in 2014, prohibits outright municipal bans on sign walkers, i.e., persons who wear, hold, or balance a sign. The Scottsdale Revised Code (“S.R.C.”) § 16–353(c), which was enacted prior to A.R.S. § 9–499.13, imposed a ban on sign walkers who conduct business on public thoroughfares, including sidewalks. The City filed a declaratory judgment action, arguing that because it is a charter community under the Arizona Constitution, the State is precluded from interfering with the City’s right to control local matters, including the regulation of its sidewalks, the safety of city inhabitants, and municipal aesthetics. The superior court granted the State’s motion for summary judgment, finding that “the state has demonstrated a matter of sufficient statewide concern and a desire to preempt the ‘sign spinner’ field.” The court further found that “the valid local municipal interests of regulating a city’s own sidewalks, aesthetics, and safety are not purely local matters to which the city has a sovereign right to regulate in a manner inconsistent with the state law.”

A municipal ordinance is preempted by state law when: “(1) the municipality creates a law in conflict with the state law, (2) the state law is of statewide concern, and (3) the state legislature intended to appropriate the field through a clear preemption policy.” The issue of this case dealt with the second prong of whether this was a matter of statewide concern. The State argued that the ordinance, like A.R.S. § 9–499.13, addressed matters of statewide concern, namely police powers of the state, zoning and sign regulation, and aesthetics. This statute applies in all municipalities in Arizona with equal force, and did not prescribe different rules for different places, but instead operates uniformly from community to community. Finally, the City argued that the state statute prevents reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions on sign walkers. However, the court found that the state statute simply prohibited outright bans on sign walkers and required that rules regulating conduct on public thoroughfares be uniform as between sign walkers and all other individuals. Thus, the statute expressly allowed for reasonable time, place, and manner regulations.

For the aforementioned reasons, the court found that 23A.R.S. § 9–499.13 preempts local ordinances that impose a blanket prohibition on sign walkers conducting business on public sidewalks and thoroughfares. The superior court’s order granting the State’s motion for summary judgment was therefore affirmed.

City of Scottsdale v State of Arizona, 2015 WL 3982743 (AZ App. 6/30/2015).

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