Newport councilman proposes unique law to combat panhandling

Panhandler sign

NEWPORT, R.I. (AP/WPRI) — A city council member in Newport has proposed a unique way to address the issue of panhandling in the coastal Rhode Island city.

The Newport Daily News reports Councilman John Florez proposed a city ordinance that would outlaw exchanges between motorists that remain inside their vehicles and people outside the car.

Florez’s intention with the proposed law was to avoid an outright ban on panhandling in the city, which courts elsewhere have struck down as a violation of free speech rights.

“It’s a distraction for a motorist behind the wheel to be approached by someone soliciting for money or services, and it isn’t safe for anyone to be standing on a median strip or stepping off a sidewalk to approach motorists,” Florez stated.  “This is a common sense and practical solution to practices that compromise the public safety of our city’s residents and visitors alike.”

While the councilman has no co-sponsors for his resolution, Florez says he will ask his colleagues this week to support his ordinance.

Opponents of the legislation point to how it could affect firefighters passing around boots for charity and others who are likewise seeking donations.

The Rhode Island chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union also weighed in, sending a letter to Newport City Solicitor Christopher Behan urging Newport to reject the idea.”For the

“For the reasons expressed in our letter, we urge you to advise the appropriate city officials of the constitutional pitfalls with proceeding with such a proposal,” RI ACLU Executive Director Steven Brown wrote in the letter.

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Information from: The Newport Daily News.

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