Bill targets panhandlers who abuse crosswalk signal

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By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver

PHOENIX -- Arizona Sen. John Kavanagh doesn't like panhandlers.

"There's a certain arrogance in bumming money off of people who are driving home from work," he said.

Now he wants to slap some panhandlers with a hefty fine or possibly put them behind bars, all because they annoy him.

"These are ... the little things that drive people crazy," Kavanagh said.

He is proposing legislation to make it illegal to use a crosswalk signal for the sole purpose of stopping drivers to hit them up for spare change. The Republican lawmaker said he was inspired after that happened to him at a red light, making him late getting home from work.

"I discovered it was backed up because there was a person panhandling, who, every time the light turned green, ran over and hit the crosswalk button to make it cycle back to red faster," Kavanagh said.

If the bill passes, violators could face a $500 fine or spend 30 days in jail.

But Democratic Sen. Martin Quezada called it "another silly law" and says Kavanagh is making politics too personal.

"If you are coming up with legislation because you're not getting home as fast as you would like to, you're probably not in the right business being a state legislator," he said.

Quezada also said the bill would add another burden to local law enforcement. And with the state's unemployment rate higher than the national average, he thinks there are other problems to focus on.

"Instead of focusing on trying to find ways to put people back to work, to give people jobs, instead we are criminalizing this behavior and pushing these people further into the corners and into the shadows," Quezada said.

Kavanagh's bill has already passed a Senate committee and now awaits the full approval of the upper chamber.