A bill pre-filed for the upcoming legislative session would specifically ban loitering on public roadways and right-of-ways.
Rep. Reed Ingram, R-Pike Road, said his bill is not about prohibiting panhandling, but reducing the chances of someone getting hurt. Ingram’s district includes eastern Montgomery County and some of the city.
“We’ve had several people in recent years get run over crossing (the Eastern Bypass in Montgomery) and it’s a public safety issue,” Ingram said.
State law already criminalizes loitering, including those who wander “about in a public place for the purpose of begging.”
Ingram’s bill specifically bans loitering on a “roadway or the right-of-way of a public roadway.” A second violation of the law would be a Class C misdemeanor.
Ingram said his intent is that the bill only applies to state highways, including some of the major, state-owned roads that run through Montgomery, like the Eastern Bypass and Taylor Road near I-85.
“There were city councilmen and county commissioners who have asked us to look into doing something,” Ingram told Alabama Daily News.
Ingram has consulted with the Alabama League of Municipalities on the bill.
“Our team has reviewed the legislation and understands Rep. Ingram’s concerns and impacts loitering has on citizens,” Kayla Bass, deputy director of the League, told Alabama Daily News. “We will continue to work with Rep. Ingram to ensure this legislative proposal is implemented in a way that best serves our communities.”
Last year, in an effort to cut down on panhandling in the Capital City, leaders there launched a “Give Smart Montgomery” effort to have people text donations to a central foundation, rather than to give money directly to people on the streets.
The text campaign came after the city in 2019 passed an ordinance to arrest or ticket panhandlers. It was challenged in court by the Southern Poverty Law Center and repealed.
The legislative session starts March 7.