Law banning solicitation passes General Assembly
Bill will forbid panhandling on all county streets
Soliciting money or any other item of value on Prince George’s County roads will soon be illegal.
House Bill 1010, which seeks to make panhandling on any county street punishable by arrest and⁄or citation, is likely to pass through the General Assembly by the end of the regular session this month.
At press time, the bill had received a favorable report by the Senate Judicial Proceeding Committee and was set for a second reading.
Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) is expected to sign the bill into law before the end of the 90-day session in May.
‘‘There was no testimony against it,” said Sen. Jim Rosapepe (D-Dist. 21) of College Park, the primary sponsor of bill’s Senate version, Senate Bill 685. ‘‘I think it’s something that folks in the community want. ... It’s a public safety issue.”
Anne Arundel County passed the same legislation last year, and phone calls and e-mails from Prince George’s County residents shortly thereafter prompted Del. Joseline Peña-Melnyk (D-Dist. 21) of College Park to push for a Prince George’s version of the bill.
‘‘Firstly, there’s the safety aspect of [panhandling]—it’s got people running through intersections and traffic trying to collect money,” said Del. Barbara Frush (D-Dist. 21) of Beltsville, chairwoman of the Prince George’s County Delegation, which sponsored H.B. 1010. ‘‘Second, as a woman, if you’re in your car, to have someone come up to you, it’s frightening. ... [The bill] gets everybody out of the median. [Panhandling on roadsides] is just a dangerous practice.”
Frush said the bill does not preclude individuals from advertising the campaigns of political candidates but does forbid people from asking for money for charity groups.
‘‘We have people claiming to be from charitable organizations who are not,” she said.
The bill also stipulates that no other items with monetary value—such as food or employment—may be solicited on a roadside.
Though the Anne Arundel County Fire Department typically conducted annual collection campaigns on medians and sidewalks prior to the 2007 legislation against it, the Prince George’s County Fire Department has for several years urged its firefighters to ask for donations in other, less dangerous spots and supports the bill’s passage.
‘‘While ‘Fill the Boot’ campaigns have been successful and a Fire Department staple for fundraising in the past, there are other safer ways to accomplish this,” said Mark Brady, a spokesman for the Prince George’s County Fire Department. ‘‘We support the [bill] based on safety reasons and look forward to a statewide effort to support legislation already on the books in Prince George’s County.”
E-mail Anath Hartmann at firstname.lastname@example.org