By John Celock
The Kansas House of Representatives passed legislation making slight changes to regulations governing lawn signs in homeowner’s associations after a contentious debate Tuesday.
The House voted 73-44 to approve the bill that would allow a homeowner’s association to prohibit political lawn signs on common areas and buildings owned by the association in the 45 days before an election. The approval followed a contentious debate over how many people had spoke on behalf of the bill during a committee debate and one Democrat giving a speech to say the whole debate was a “waste of our time.”
The bill received final House approval on Wednesday morning in a 79-42 vote.
Rep. J.R. Claeys (R-Salina) who was presenting the bill on behalf of the House Commerce, Labor and Economic Development Committee, explained to his colleagues that the bill ends an existing provision in the law which could allow for the placement of the signs on the common areas during that time. Existing state law – which remains the same under the bill – allows residents in a HOA to place lawn signs on their private property during this period.
The bill would also allow a resident to place a political lawn sign on a HOA owned common area that is immediately adjacent to a residential unit during the 45 days preceding an election. In some HOAs in Kansas, front lawns are technically owned by the association but are for the sole use of the resident of the adjoining unit.
“This bill allows for HOAs to have more control over common areas. This bill allows for HOAs to decide on how to restrict lawn sign placement on common areas and facilities,” Claeys told the House. “These HOA are unable to restrict the placement of lawn signs in commonly held area in that period before an election.”
The bill originated from House Commerce, Labor and Economic Development Committee Chairman Mark Hutton (R-Wichita), who proposed it after being approached by an HOA in his district.
Democrats raised objections to the legislation during the debate, noting that the bill only had one supporter and one opponent speak during a hearing before the Commerce Committee. Assistant Minority Leader Louis Ruiz (D-Kansas City) told his colleagues that he felt this was a matter best left to HOAs.
“I feel this bill doesn’t need to be here at this level it should have been settled before it came to this body,” Ruiz said.
Rep. Stan Frownfelter (D-Kansas City), the ranking minority member on the Commerce Committee, echoed Ruiz during a speech objecting, with a focus on HOA authority over residential decorations. He also objected to how many people spoke in the committee meeting.
“I have had a problem this since it came before us. In HOA they can tell you what color to paint your house and what shingles to use,” he said. “They have the control at the local level to do this. They don’t need us.”
Hutton responded to Frownfelter that it was not fair to judge the bill based on how many people spoke.
“It was a bone of contention for homeowners association in my district,” Hutton said. “That’s the reason for the bill. Just because one person made us aware doesn’t make it a bad bill.”
Frownfelter also used his speech to say that the House should not be focused on the HOA bill but rather other issues in the state. The bill came up during a series of fairly routine legislation, including bills relating to veterans employment and changing rules relating to general contractors needing roofing contractor licenses. Frownfelter had been vocal on the floor regarding several bills on Tuesday.
“With everything we have on our plate right now I think this is a waste of our time,” Frownfelter said of the HOA bill.
The debate led to a voice vote in the chamber – routine under the Committee of the Whole rules – that was in doubt, leading to the recorded vote.
Hutton used the debate to reiterate to colleagues that the bill was clarifying rules for HOAs in the state.
“The crux of this bill was to clean up confusion,” he said.