On Monday, the House passed HB 101, sponsored by Representative Jim Nielson (Republican – Bountiful). The bill outlaws panhandling along freeway entrances, highways, and shoulders. The bill also establishes a 10 feet perimeter around ATM’s, restricting individuals from engaging other in panhandling around these locations.
The bill passed 53-22, where it will be sent to the Senate and is expected to easily pass.
While there was no fierce debate over the merits of the bill, however there were concerns over how the bill would affect “honk and waves” and charitable drives like the annual firefighter “fill the boot” campaign. The bill would ban such roadside campaigns like this along the interstate system, however, it would not affect such activities along major highways such as State Street (a federal highway) or Fort Union Boulevard (a state road) – though the ban would be lifted if a permit is received by a petitioner.
Representative David Lifferth (Republican – Eagle Mountain) opposed the bill and said that the bill’s restriction directly infringes on people’s First Amendment rights, particularly with regard to honk and waves.
“Honk and Waves” are a common campaign tactic where candidates and supporters stand on street corners encouraging people to honk their horns in support while driving past.
Salt Lake City’s anti-panhandling ordinance was struck down in Federal courts in March 2012, stating that panhandlers had a First Amendment right to ask for money. The bill to restrict panhandling was requested by the Downtown Alliance and the Salt Lake Chamber of Commerce.
The bill addresses a recent trend of panhandling along freeway entrances and exits in and around Salt Lake County. Representative Brian King (Democrat – Salt Lake City) objected to the bill, stating that the bill is being justified based on the concept that panhandlers are distracting. King pointed out that billboards on the side of the road are distracting and asked “how different is it other than the desirability or lack of desirability of the person involved?”