Bossier City council passes ordinances limiting panhandling

Bossier City council passes ordinances limiting panhandling

BOSSIER CITY, LA (KSLA) - Two new ordinances have been passed in Bossier City that make panhandling near roadways a criminal offense.

The Bossier City Council passed the ordinances 6 - 1 on Tuesday afternoon that make it illegal for panhandlers to interrupt the flow of traffic on or near roadways and prohibits aggressive soliciting in public places.

According to councilman Thomas Harvey, who introduced the bill, the proposed ordinances will apply to everyone.

"What we're trying to do is we're trying to ensure that Girl Scouts don't sell Girl Scout Cookies along major roads," Harvey said. "You know, where that is acceptable is in parks and in front of businesses. There are many businesses that allow people to seek all kinds of donations."

The ordinances were met with opposition by Bossier City councilman Jeffrey Darby and ACLU Executive Director Marjorie Esman.

Darby says the ordinance punishes the poor and sticks them with fees they cannot pay ultimately putting them behind bars on the taxpayers' dime.

Esman, on the other hand, says the ordinance banning panhandling on or near roadways violates the panhandler's First Amendment rights.

"It's legal to have a restriction against aggressive panhandling which is if you follow me and I ask you to stop," Esman said. "Those restrictions are perfectly legal, but it's not legal to have a law that says that you're not allowed to stand by the side of the road with a sign that says I am hungry, please help me."

The 12 streets specified under the ordinance as designated roadways are:

  • Airline Drive 3105
  • Benton Road (Highway 3)
  • East Texas (Highway 80)
  • Highway 71
  • Old Minden Road
  • Barksdale Boulevard
  • Industrial Drive
  • Swan Lake Road
  • Riverside Drive
  • Traffic Street
  • Horseshoe Boulevard
  • Margaritaville Way

Under the guidelines, panhandlers could face up to 60 days in jail or $500 in fines or both.

As it stands now, in Bossier City panhandling is only illegal when people block or impede traffic.

"Specifically, obstruction of public passages," Bossier City spokesman Mark Natale said. "If they're getting out in the roadway and traffic is stopping and they're stopping traffic to solicit money, then that's an obvious charge."

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