Legislation prohibiting people who are seeking money from blocking traffic and public rights-of-way, grabbing people or their property and approaching people at ATM locations in Bexley received unanimous approval April 9.
The final version of the legislation contains revisions that removed language stating the regulations would apply to "a suspicious person" and defining that as anyone "who goes about begging or places himself in or upon any public place to beg." The revision stemmed from a letter the city received from the American Civil Liberties Union indicating that federal law prohibits outright bans on panhandling, City Attorney Marc Fishel said.
"The United States Supreme Court had determined in the past that these kind of broad prohibitions on panhandling often (are) unconstitutional," Fishel said. "It's a First Amendment violation. We worked to tailor to the new ordinance to what would be constitutional."
The vote was 6-0, with Councilman Tim Madison absent.
The revised ordinance also allows charitable organizations to collect donations and removes a requirement for such organizations to report the exact amount of their collections to the city's safety director, said Councilwoman Monique Lampke, chairwoman of council's Safety and Health Committee and the council member who introduced Ordinance 01-19.
After consulting with Fishel, "the consensus was that we don't need to put in (the legislation) how much has been collected because that would be onerous and a little burdensome," Lampke said.
At council's second reading of the ordinance Feb. 5, Mayor Ben Kessler suggested amendments to allow for charitable solicitations in public rights-of-way, such as the Charity Newsies' annual fundraiser in which volunteers sell newspapers and collect money at intersections.
Amended Ordinance 01-19 creates a new chapter under section 648.12 of city code – Chapter 649, which contains the restrictions on exchanging items in the public-right-of-way, a fourth-degree misdemeanor; grabbing people or property, a second-degree misdemeanor; approaching people at ATM locations, a fourth-degree misdemeanor; and blocking public rights-of-way, a fourth-degree misdemeanor.
The legislation does not specify the penalties associated with infractions.