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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Sen. Jack Latvala attempts a statewide panhandling crackdown



Tampa City Council members have struggled to agree on a solution for the city's panhandling problem.

So Republican Sen. Jack Latvala has one for them — and the rest of the state.

Latvala, who represents parts of Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, is behind SB 1180, a sprawling Senate Transportation Committee bill that imposes blanket restrictions on roadside solicitations for the state.

His solution for getting it under control: requiring anyone who wants to accept money from the road to register with local government.

Latvala, the committee chairman, said it's his responsibility to improve road safety for panhandlers and motorists, and that dove-tails with his obligation to frustrated constituents.

There's an important caveat for local governments: They could opt out of the state's crackdown with a majority vote.

Latvala said he does not want to interfere with more restrictive ordinances already in place, such as bans in St. Petersburg and Hillsborough County, or with municipalities that do not wish to take on the issue. But he doubts Tampa City Council members would vote to override rules he says constituents want.

"Once the mechanism is in place, I think they'll do it," he said. "They just need a little push."

Council Chairman Charlie Miranda said Latvala's plan sounds like a friendly approach that won't put people out of their chosen line of work.

"I don't think the council will opt out of that," he said. "The council's been frustrated."

Get the whole story in today's Times here.

[Last modified: Friday, April 8, 2011 10:45am]


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