NY State Senate Passes Political Ad Ban For Public Properties

Originally published in Patch on June 09, 2021.

It's designed to prohibit campaign materials supporting candidates running for office on government-owned buildings and equipment.

ALBANY, NY — Legislation banning political advertisements on public properties passed the New York State Senate Wednesday afternoon.

It prohibits the the display of ads supporting political candidates who are running for office, on not only buildings and facilities, but flag poles, monuments, signs and other permanent structures, as well as equipment and vehicles. All government-owned buildings, such as town and village halls, as well as police, and volunteer-operated fire departments and ambulance companies would be included under the ban.

The measure easily passed 47-16, and moves on to the Assembly now.

A spokesman for bill sponsor Sen. Anna Kaplan (D-North Hills) said her office is "closely following the action in the Assembly" and staffers are "very optimistic that both bills will pass both houses by the end of the week."

The legislation would prohibit public employees, as well as unpaid volunteers who donate their time, from displaying advertisements on the properties. Advertisements are defined in the legislation as posters, signs, flags, banners, pictures, stickers, patches, bumper stickers, and clothing or accessories promoting political candidates, according to the legislation.

The ban would include any facility owned by towns, villages, fire, police, and ambulance districts that are funded by taxpayer dollars.
 

The legislation was inspired, in part, by the hanging of an American flag as well as a "Trump 2020" campaign banner inside a Levittown Fire Department location, according to Kaplan's office. The flags were hung in the same area where a Confederate and a "Don't tread on me," flag once hung, but were removed, Kaplan's office said.

Similar legislation introduced earlier this year prohibits the display of hate symbols like Confederate flags inside of government properties. That legislation passed the Senate last week and has also headed off to the Assembly for a vote.
 

The Brookhaven Fire Department took some heat last August after a member displayed a Confederate flag on a fire truck during a parade for a sick Patchogue firefighter. The department's attorney, Joseph Frank, told Patch back in February that the members later resigned.

Frank said that the Board of Fire Commissioners fully support the legislation and fire district, as well as department leaders "embrace the diversity of our community and support efforts to make the fire service and our society more inclusive."

The department was working alongside the Suffolk County Division of Human Rights on a sensitivity training program so all members "understand the concepts behind why certain objects are considered symbols of hate and have no place in fire departments and other governmental entities," Frank said.