Our View: Pols pan panhandling

Friday , March 28, 2014 - 12:50 PM

Editorial Board, Standard-Examiner

The pols in the recently completed legislative session have sent Utah Gov. Gary Herbert a bill that would ban panhandling by state freeways, highways, and along the roads’ shoulders. It also bans so-called aggressive panhandling, which is within 10 feet of a bank or ATM.

Lest anyone dare think that our pols are harboring hostility toward those who beg for money, the wannabe law also outlaws sidewalk “honk and waves” by political candidates and even firefighters’ roadside pitches for donations.

Legislators apparently are willing to sacrifice “honk and waves” and “fill the boot” fund-raisers if it will get those pesky beggars off the highways and shoulders. Of course, any bill that simply targeted panhandlers would not survive court review.

In our opinion, this is a bill that should be vetoed. It’s really not the business of state legislators to decide how cities and towns deal with vagrancy, or panhandling. And it seems silly to deny other fundraising activities just so the Utah Legislature can do something about the nuisance of panhandling. We believe the arguments of the bill’s supporters that a heavy majority of the money requested is spent on drugs or alcohol. That’s a tragedy and persons should avoid giving panhandlers money. Instead, these people should be directed to shelters that provide meals for those in need.

Again, in our opinion the Legislature has better things to do. And also, there is a cynical irony in Utah pols, who regularly beg unlimited amounts of dollars from business and other special interests, passing a law that forbids the most unfortunate of us from trying to cadge a few bucks to deal with their addictions.

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