JEFFERSON CITY - Some homeowners' associations found themselves in the hot seat at a House Emerging Issues Committee session.
At issue is whether such groups should be allowed to ban political yard signs on front lawns.
A homeowners' association is a non-profit organization created to govern the operations of a planned community. These organizations have power to assess members and implement fines if homeowners within the community violate terms set out by the organization, such as yard signs.
Rep. Kurt Bahr, R- St. Charles, sponsored the bill to prohibit a property owners' association from prohibiting a home owner from placing signs in their yard endorsing any political party, candidate.
Under the provisions of the bill, a "political sign" is defined as any fixed ground-mounted display in support or in opposition to a person seeking elected office or ballot measure, excluding any materials that may be attached.
Bahr said an association not allowing residents to place signs depicting their political opinion in their own front yard is a violation of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. "I don't think you can contract away fundamental rights."
Rep. Ron Hicks, R-St. Peters, agreed. He said there are neighborhoods in his district that charge $35 per day if any resident violates the "no political signs" rule. But Hicks said the $35 fine is not enforced if the sign depicts anything other than politics. Hicks adds that he is grateful for a few of his "fans" that will risk the fine and put up signs advocating for him a few days before the election.
In 1994, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Missouri city ordinance banning political yard signs. The court's decision was unanimous in the case that struck down the ordinance of Ladue in St. Louis County.
The court's decision, however, did not address private organizations like homeowners' associations.
Under Bahr's bill, a homeowners association could adopt "reasonable" rules "regarding the time, size, place, number, and manner of display of political signs."No person spoke against the bill. The committee did not take immediate action on the measure.