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Panhandling ordinance passed by Jacksonville City Council. Here's what that means

The ordinance, which was introduced in July 2022, prohibits people from standing in the median for an extended amount of time and soliciting money.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The Jacksonville City Council voted Tuesday night to pass a panhandling bill designed to help make roadways safer, however, critics say the bill targets marginalized communities. 

The ordinance, which was introduced in July 2022, prohibits people from standing in the median for an extended amount of time and soliciting money. It also makes it illegal for a person to physically interact with someone on the roadways. 

Councilmember Kevin Carrico introduced the bill alongside Councilmembers Aaron Bowman and Ferraro. It passed 16-3 at Tuesday's meeting.

Carrico says many have mischaracterized this ordinance as an attack on homelessness and mislabeled it the anti-panhandling bill. 

“This legislation is not an attack on homelessness but a step in right direction of protecting our most vulnerable citizens by making our roadways safer for all," said Carrico in an emailed statement to First Coast News.

He reminds citizens that the bill does not outlaw the act of panhandling in the city, it only makes any physical interaction, commercial use, or occupancy of public rights-of-ways, medians, and roadways illegal in heavily traveled roadways. People who panhandle were obviously against it the ordinance. First Coast News caught with one person who goes by Cliff. He panhandles in the city. Sometimes, that is how he gets by. He said this ordinance does not help him. Cliff said there are times others will ask him for money. 

"I give to the measure of my heart. If I got it, they got it. If I don't, I don't have it," Cliff said. "I shouldn't worry about somebody getting mad at me for helping somebody else, c'mon now."

Before the meeting Councilman Matt Carlucci told First Coast News he would support the bill. However, he believes the ordinance would invite legal challenges. Carlucci said the city tried to enforce something similar years ago, but it did hold up in court. Instead, he expects the council to put forth legislation that would address homelessness in the city. 

"We need to look at the prevention part of it as well, maybe more than the enforcement side," Carlucci said. 

A. Wellington Barlow, a Jacksonville attorney, previously said he believes the ordinance is a violation of the first amendment and political attack on homeless people in the city. 

He admits, there is a safety issue, but something that's been that way for years in the city. He described the ordinance as hypocrisy. 

"This is going to cost the city a lot of money if it passes," Barlow said. "It's bold face hypocrisy because you have an exemption for firemen." 

The panhandling ordinance would not impact first responders.

Now that the bill has passed it will be signed into law, then JSO will conduct a 30-day education period before the ordinance begins.

 According to the legislation, not only those individuals that are soliciting or selling be warned or ticketed, but the person in the car who participates in any transaction are open to enforcement. 

One can get up to three warning from police. After that, the driver and panhandler would get a citation of up to $100. 

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