Friday, July 20, 2007

Marion County's panhandling ordinance
challenged in federal court

Marion County's panhandling ordinance is an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment right to expression and the 14th Amendment right of equal protection, asserts a federal lawsuit.

The ordinance requires panhandlers to get a license -- but the county has never issued a panhandling license.

Applicants for a panhandling license must pay a $100 fee* and provide a permanent address, including any homeless shelter they may frequent, the location where they plan to panhandle or beg, and the hours during which they plan to do it. No one who has committed a felony or misdemeanor involving "moral turpitude" or who has violated the panhandling ordinance within the last year can get a license.

All panhandling is prohibited within 500 feet of an I-75 ramp.

Read the Ocala Star-Banner article here.
* If you had $100, would you need to panhandle for a few bucks for food?


At 4:29 AM, Blogger brian creekbaum said...

The Board of County Commissioners in Marion County enacted this ordinance on May 2, 2006. Then county commissioner Randy Harris said in the public hearing that day that he had requested the ordinance, which passed unanimously. During that public hearing, Harris expressed concern about the $100 licensing fee until he was told by a lawyer in the county attorney’s office that the firefighter solicitations Harris said he wanted to make sure were permitted fell outside the definition of begging and panhandling in the ordinance.

Harris, who I and others battled for the last six of his twelve years on our county commission in connection with his library censorship efforts, was defeated last November by Barbara Fitos, who became the only woman and only Democrat on the county commission in Marion County. What she thinks about this ordinance remains to be seen.

While Marion County has put in place this onerous licensing requirement for begging and panhandling, effective October 1 of last year Marion County repealed its occupational licensing requirement, spinning it in the newspaper as the removal of unnecessary bureaucracy. Licensing is still required for building trades deemed safety related, but many occupational activities no longer require licensing in unincorporated Marion County.

Tracy Gale, a public information officer for the Marion County Building Department, has confirmed to me that several activities mentioned in an op-ed by her published in the Star-Banner last September do not require licensing by the state or the county. She listed house painters, lawn care specialists, tile installation contractors, maid services, land-clearers, and tree trimmers.

From a document pointed out to me on the website for the Marion County Building Department website by Gale, here is a list of work you can do on buildings in Marion County without licensing:

No Licensing Requirement Needed for the Following Work:

Bocce Ball Courts
Demolition Under 50 ft. in Height
Drywall/Lath (no license required if hired directly by a licensed contractor)
Finish Carpentry
Horseshoe Pits
Miscellaneous Non-Structural Metal
Painting (Interior or Exterior)
Pressure Cleaning
Shuffleboard Courts
Site Work
Toilet Accessories
Toilet Partitions

At 2:39 PM, Anonymous An Open Door Ministry-Pastor Jen said...

I am praying that someone in Marion County can stand up for something that is right. God tells all of us that it is our responsibility to take care of homeless and the less fortunate. We are to provide food, clothing and shelter. I challenge anyone on any board to come spend 24-48 hours with me on a street to see what it is like. I go and feed them, bring them clothes and take some of them in. We are all God's children and we should never question what happened to them. We all have one judge and that is God.This is not what God's law says. Another amazing thing to me is that we cannot have Bibles in some schools or organizations but we can have them in jail. Do you think that is backwards and perhaps if they do have a Bible maybe they would learn and stay out of jail. Think on that one. It is time we all come together to do our part and the time is now.

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