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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Latvala's panhandling bill advances despite objections from homeless advocates



Sen. Jack Latvala, chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, got another round of committee support Wednesday for his big transportation bill, SB 1180, which requires local governments to set up a permitting system for panhandlers.

Latvala crafted the bill with Tampa in mind, as City Council members have not been able to agree on a panhandling policy for the city. This does it for them, unless the council members opt out of it by taking a majority vote. (Backstory here.)

The panhandling section turned out to be the most controversial part of the sprawling bill, which mostly contains recommendations from the Department of Transportation. So many people signed up to speak that Senate Budget Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development Chairman Sen. Don Gaetz asked that in-town lobbyists not make statements, as several homeless advocates -- some in town for Florida Coalition for the Homeless' annual lobbying day, others from Homeless/Formerly Homeless Forum, Inc. in Miami -- were in Tallahassee from across the state to speak against the bill.

"I don't think this is going to help the job problem in Florida," said Kindra Muntz of the Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of Florida. "If panhandlers are criminalized, we're going to have people on the street who won't be able to get a job. They're trying to get a job."

Violators of Latvala's proposed pandhandling measures would be cited for a pedestrian violation. An extra $10 fine would go to a state trust fund for homelessness initiatives.

The committee passed an amended version of the committee bil by a vote of 15-0. That leaves the bill with one more committee stop before it can reach the full Senate.

[Last modified: Wednesday, April 13, 2011 5:34pm]


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