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2/6/2019 Deputy Speaker Lima introduces bill to address panhandling problem
Calling the Panhandling problem “a growing public safety hazard, especially in light of the last December tragic stabbing of a native Rhode Islander in Baltimore by a panhandler, and a growing burden on businesses,” Representative Lima today called for a statewide solution to the problem of panhandling.”

“I will be submitting legislation in today’s session, to finally put an end to the panhandling problem.  This legislation must be certain to pass constitutional muster," Rep Lima said.  It is apparent with all the constitutional legal challenges, to any law that interferes with a person’s right to free speech, any constitutional solution must go in a completely different direction.  So I plan on addressing the problem from a motor vehicle traffic violation standpoint.

Representative Lima added, “rather than passing an unconstitutional ordinance that will again subject the taxpayers to unnecessary legal fees in defending the coming challenges this statewide approach is the right route to take to eliminate the growing panhandling problem.”

It is absolutely clear that the State of Rhode Island has the right to make traffic laws designed to keep our roads safe for drivers and pedestrians.  Therefore my legislation (2019-H 5330) will make it a traffic violation with substantial fines for any operator of a motor vehicle or its’ passengers, as we do with seat-belts, to pass anything out of a motor vehicle  while on any road or highway while still in the active lane of travel. 

If any driver wants to make a donation to any person soliciting anything from the roadways or sidewalks they must exit the active lane of travel, even if stopped at a traffic signal, and park in a legally allowed manner.

Of course the legislation will have to be written to exclude legally allowable transferences such as the tolls on the Newport Bridge etc.  Likewise my legislation will allow the cities and towns to issue special temporary permits for registered and bona fide charities such as the police, fire, or any other legally established charities presently soliciting donations on the roadways. All these details must be worked out in Committee before the legislation passes.

However the main point of the legislation is that giving anything from a motor vehicle to anyone on our roadways while still in an active lane of travel will be prohibited with stiff fines.  Once the statehouse hearings begin on my legislation we will, I am sure, find other necessary exceptions.  But the main purpose of my legislation will remain unchanged.

Many individuals feel the need to make donations to panhandlers because they have compassion for their apparent plight.  As a result they put themselves, the panhandlers and other motor vehicles in danger. 

My legislation will help re-direct their need to donate since they will be legally prohibited from making any donation from a motor vehicle in any active lane of travel.  We will find other ways to get needed donations to those in need, especially those needing to panhandle for food, medicine and shelter. This is necessary not because we do not have compassion for those in need but for the safety of the panhandlers, the safety of the vehicle operators and the safety of all Rhode Island residents. 

While we must stop the panhandling on our state roadways we must not and cannot turn a blind eye to the plight of many of these less fortunate individuals.  So as another part of my legislation I will find ways to get these individuals the care they need and what laws we need to make sure that care gets to them.

I am also fortunate enough to have an opinion from the noted constitutional scholar, Patrick Conley, Esq., that my legislation as proposed will pass all constitutional muster.

For more information, contact:
Andrew Caruolo, Publicist
State House Room 20
Providence, RI 02903