Boise City Council Unanimously Approves Revamped Panhandling Law

Jan 15, 2014

Only a handful of protesters turned out for the city council meeting last night to quietly hold signs disputing the new anti-panhandling ordinance.
Credit Jessica Murri / For Boise State Public Radio

The Boise City Council Tuesday unanimously approved revamped panhandling restrictions after last year's ordinance to limit the practice was largely struck down by a federal  judge.

At the beginning of January, a federal judge halted the majority of Boise's new anti-panhandling ordinance, the very day it was supposed to go into effect. The judge said parts of the law to limit panhandling in Boise restricted free speech.

The ordinance would have restricted panhandlers from seeking handouts from pedestrians crossing the street or near a sidewalk cafe, by making a first offense an infraction. After the Boise City Council approved the tougher panhandling restrictions in September, the American Civil Liberties Union sued the city two months later.

The new version of the ordinance city council members approved Tuesday stripped two-thirds of its original provisions. The new panhandling rules exclude the section dealing with solicitation near ATMs, sidewalk cafes, and public transportation hubs. It also excludes solicitation in the street. Only the section about aggressive solicitation remains intact.

ACLU Idaho's Executive Director Monica Hopkins questioned the point of the new ordinance.

“It changes nothing. It returns us to the original place that we were at, which is, there is an aggressive solicitation ordinance on the books. It’s been on the books before our challenge,” Hopkins said. “We did not challenge that, we agree that people’s safety is important.”

City Council member Lauren McLean was the only official to vote against the original ordinance back in September. For McLean, the revamped version works.

"[I voted] against our first ordinance [because] it went too far," McLean wrote in an email. "If the ordinance would have only dealt with aggressive solicitation, I would have supported it. Tonight we responded to the Court, maintaining the aggressive solicitation portion of the ordinance that was not under dispute."

Still, Tuesday's unanimous approval of the new ordinance may not be the end of the debate. Mayor Dave Bieter, as well as other City Council members, say they plan to review the ordinance again in a year.

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