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Bill increasing penalties for panhandling receives bipartisan support

The bill increases the penalties for subsequent violations of the act and gives law enforcement the ability to take violators to a shelter.

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Several changes were made to a bill Thursday that would increase penalties for people loitering or begging on Alabama roadways, but ended up with bipartisan support in a 90-0 vote in the Alabama House of Representatives.

The bill initially removed language in current state law that prohibits people from loitering in the street “for the purpose of begging,” but Rep. Susan Dubose, R-Hoover, brought an amendment to bring that language back into the bill as well as allowing people with city or county permits to seek jobs, business or donations.

Rep. Reed Ingram, R-Pike Road, sponsored the bill and said it is necessary for public safety as more than 800 pedestrians have been hit by cars by loitering in the roadway.

“We’ve had a lot of people on the roads, soliciting, loitering, mental health, drugs, etc, and this bill would make it unlawful to loiter on a state-maintained road,” Ingram said.

Current law establishes a $200 fine and up to 30 days of jail time for loitering. This bill would make it a Class C misdemeanor for subsequent violations, which could result in a. $500 fine and up to three months in jail.

Exceptions remain for people attending parades, masquerade parties or educational, religious and historical presentations.

The bill also allows law enforcement to take an individual to a homeless shelter instead of jail. It would require law enforcement to order the person to leave the state-maintained road before they could make an arrest.

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The bill received some support outright from Democrats, while 12 Democrat members abstained from the vote.

Jacob Holmes is a reporter at the Alabama Political Reporter. You can reach him at [email protected]

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