State senator sponsors 'aggressive panhandling' bill for 3rd time

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State Sen. John Kavanagh's bill would make it a petty offense to panhandle in any way that basically makes people feel uncomfortable. (Source: 3TV) State Sen. John Kavanagh's bill would make it a petty offense to panhandle in any way that basically makes people feel uncomfortable. (Source: 3TV)

By Jonathan Lowe

PHOENIX (3TV) -- A bill is quickly moving its way through the state Legislature that would crack down on so called aggressive panhandling, making the act illegal. Federal courts have already said laws against panhandling violate free speech; however, states and cities can get around that by outlawing a subcategory called aggressive panhandling.

Some examples of "aggressive panhandling" would be: approaching someone while they are at the ATM, continuing to ask for money after you have already said no, touching you without your permission or stepping in your path to ask you for money.

"I don't feel comfortable if they do that to me," said John Rogers, a Phoenix resident who supports the bill against "aggressive panhandling."

"I have given but I don't make it a habit of giving," he added.

State Sen. John Kavanagh says you shouldn't be pressured by a "tsunami of people currently begging for money on the street."

"Are you going to starve to death or are you going to ask people," said self-described panhandler Tim Hannan. "I'm not going to steal."

Kavanagh's SB-1094 would make it a petty offense to panhandle in any way that basically makes people feel uncomfortable.

"There are people out there that abuse it because they got problems," Rogers added.

This is a third try for the "aggressive panhandling" bill. Last year, the full Legislature supported it, but it was later dead on arrival at former Gov. Jan Brewer's desk.

"There needs to be some type of legislation on it, right, but they need to find out what's causing the people, what is the problem," Rogers said.

Though Kavanagh maintains some panhandler tactics cross the line, Hannan maintains he's not doing anything wrong.

"There's a huge problem in this state with people that are out of work, and so if they're going to bar you from doing that, what's going to be the next step for those people?" Hannan asked. "Is it going to be breaking the law?"

After a first offense, any further violations of the "aggressive panhandling" bill would call for a short period of time in jail. Habitual offenders, in the court's eyes, would be seen as viewing the law as a "use tax" and not a deterrent.

Kavanagh expects the state House will vote on the bill some time in the next week to two weeks.