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Advertising Company Calls New Legislation Illegal

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – A legal battle could be brewing over billboards.

Pittsburgh City Council wants to tax billboards, but opponents call the tax illegal.

Attorneys for the billboard company, Lamar, want the legislation off the table.

The company has gone so far as to criticize the bill's sponsors, in a series of billboard advertisements around the city.

But Pittsburgh City Council gave final approval to the bill Tuesday.

By a unanimous 9-0 vote, Pittsburgh City Council gave the final approval for the bill, which will imposes a 10 percent excise tax on billboard advertising transactions.

Immediately after the vote, Lamar Advertising Attorney Jonathan Kamin vowed a lawsuit to block implementation of the bill which he says is illegal.

"This is violation of the first amendment in that it's a prior restraint on speech," Kamin said. "It's a violation of the state constitution, specifically the special law section that says that no governmental entity should enact a special law to go ahead and punish or support one particular industry."

Council President Darlene Harris said council sought the new revenue from billboard companies rather than residents "because city taxpayers cannot afford higher taxes."

"It's time that we find other avenues," Harris said. "And this is not the last avenue that we are looking for to bring revenues into the city."

Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak said council hopes to generate $2 to 4 million in revenue from the tax for public safety expenses.

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