One of the best ways to help the beggar…is to fine them $750 for begging.
Fox 13 News reported recently on a new Utah law that will restrict pandhandlers along roadways. The story featured Jennifer Gailey who has been homeless for five years and relies on pandhandling.
Starting on Tuesday, though, the effort could cost her more than she earns, when a new roadway safety law takes effect in the state, essentially banning panhandling on state roads and on-off ramps.
“While it purports to be a traffic safety ordinance or statute, I think it really is an ordinance designed to stop people from panhandling, from asking for money,” said Stewart Gollan, an attorney for the Utah Civil Rights and Liberties Foundation.
Gollan has represented half a dozen panhandlers in lawsuits against cities in the state, which had similar laws. He sees this legislation as no different.
“It’s protected speech and the fact that people may be uncomfortable with the message of speech doesn’t mean it can be prohibited by government,” Gollan said.
But according to the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jim Nielson, R-Bountiful, it’s prohibiting anyone from creating a potential traffic problem on state roads.
“It basically discriminates against anyone who chooses to use the roadway in a way it wasn’t intended to be used,” Nielson said.
The law extends past panhandlers, prohibiting anyone from stepping off the public sidewalks and into the middle of the street.
“If you’re there and you’re a politician waving signs or you’re someone seeking to fill the booth for some charity or if you’re someone that’s campaigning, any of those puts someone at rise,” Nielson said. “And we don’t differentiate between those behaviors.”
The Utah legislature is boldly protecting the people of Utah from the poor among them. Clearly, this is a new vision of “no poor among them” for the 21st century.
Nielson states that business groups support the measure. Surprise! We would not want to disturb the shopping trips of the comfortable.
Last week, I wrote about what Mormon scripture teaches about giving to beggars. But who needs scripture when you have the Chamber of Commerce on your side?
“…ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish.” http://t.co/XRiJywVxiz
— Chris Henrichsen (@Chrishenrichsen) May 8, 2014