Alabama legislator pre-files bill to prevent panhandling statewide

Published: Feb. 6, 2023 at 6:43 PM CST
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - A new attempt to cut down on roadside panhandling is happening at the state level.

A state lawmaker representing the Montgomery area is introducing new legislation. The City of Montgomery tried outlawing panhandling last year but had to rescind the ordinance after a legal challenge.

Now, Representative Reed Ingram has pre-filed a bill ahead of the next legislative session that would add panhandling to existing state law.

Under the current state law, loitering is a violation, but Ingram wants to take it a step further. He represents District 75 and has pre-filed a bill that would prohibit an individual from loitering on a public roadway or in the right of way of a public roadway.

”A lot of times, if you ride through Montgomery, on the state highways like Taylor Road, state-owned roads, the bypass and interchanges where the interstates are, you see a lot of people out here panhandling or sleeping beside the road,” said Ingram.

Ingram says panhandling has gotten out of hand, but what he’s proposing could help municipalities statewide.

“Local leaders have asked for it. City council and county commission have asked for it. The public outcry has asked that we do something to clean it up,” said Ingram. “When you come off of the exit and you see people standing here knocking on your door - panhandling is just not a good image.”

Ingram points out this public safety bill focuses on keeping both the driver and the panhandler safe.

“These roads, like I say, are designed for people in automobiles, not for people standing out there begging for money,” said Ingram. “This will give the officers the option whether to take them to a homeless center and drop them off or if they repeatedly stay out there, they could go spend 24 hours in jail.”

Reed says he doesn’t expect any opposition to this bill.

The 2023 legislative session starts March 7.

The city’s ordinance last year was challenged because opponents said it violated panhandlers’ first amendment rights. So, the City of Montgomery launched the Give Smart Montgomery campaign aimed at tackling panhandlers. The campaign encourages residents to text “GIVE MGM” to 44321 and donate to the Central Alabama Community Foundation instead of handing money to panhandlers out of your car window.

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