Jacksonville City Council panel approves panhandling ban
The Jacksonville City Council may crack down on wayward staffers, if a new bill passes.

jax city hall
One more committee stop remains before a full Council vote next week.

Jacksonville is taking aim at panhandlers with new legislation approved by a City Council committee.

The Neighborhoods, Community Services, Public Health and Safety Committee was the first of two committees of reference to OK a ban that has been contemplated for close to a year.

Bill 2022-574, sponsored by Republicans Kevin Carrico and Al Ferraro, would make it illegal for people to use the public right of way for “commercial activity,” but the legislative intent is to stop the practice of people asking for money at busy intersections unless they had city permits or were members of police or fire organizations.

Carrico framed the bill as “helping out our officers,” and after an extended discussion to ensure that solicitation efforts by police and fire wouldn’t be banned, a substitute version of the legislation moved forward by a 6-1 vote, with only Democrat Reggie Gaffney Jr. in opposition.

Co-sponsor Ferraro said the bill was necessary as “constituents … felt unsafe” with “more and more people coming to our city and lining up in intersections.”

Carrico urged youth sports teams that currently solicit donations to “speak with private business owners” and get their donations at “Publix or Winn-Dixie,” especially given that “10- or 12-year-olds” are “hard to control.”

The legislation protects solicitation efforts outside of the city right of way, noted General Counsel Jason Teal. But concerns continued from the committee.

Republican Vice Chair Ron Salem noted that many panhandlers “clearly have mental health issues,” as he tried to get answers for his worries about the legislation. Republican Michael Boylan wanted officers posted up at high-traffic intersections, such as 295 and San Jose in his own district. A representative of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office suggested that other crimes, like murders, may take priority, but when workflow permitted, it could be possible.

A substitute version of the bill approved by the committee would allow people 18 years of age and over to solicit with permits, with Republican LeAnna Cumber denoting her frustrations with the local stripping ban for those under 21 years of age encountering problems in federal court. Republican Chair Randy DeFoor shared those concerns that the legislation would be vulnerable to a court challenge as well.

Enthusiasm for the legislation had built for months even amid First Amendment concerns. A representative from the Office of General Counsel told Council members last year that court challenges often targeted panhandling bans and asserted her eagerness to avoid a suit in federal court. But despite this, neighboring Clay County enacted its own ban a few months back, and now Duval is on track to follow.

The legislation will be heard by the Transportation, Energy, and Utilities committee Tuesday, and then will be on track for a full City Council vote next week.

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has written for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. He is based in Northeast Florida. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AGGancarski

One comment

  • Chavela

    February 6, 2023 at 9:04 pm

    So instead of addressing the housing crisis, lack of access to mental health services, and underfunded services for the homeless, the best these clowns could come up with is kicking people while they’re down. I hope these people know they’re going to hell.

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