Council targets curbside begging

State bill would let county prohibit collection by minors

April 19, 2006|By PHILLIP MCGOWAN | PHILLIP MCGOWAN,SUN REPORTER

Following the passage of state legislation that would allow Anne Arundel County to ban minors from panhandling, the County Council is poised to make that happen.

The governor hasn't yet signed the bill approved on the final day of the General Assembly last week, but Councilman Ronald C. Dillon Jr. said yesterday that he intends to draft a bill to keep those under 18 from soliciting drivers for money.

Dillon, a Pasadena Republican, said he "would like to do away with panhandling completely, and this would be a first step."

Other council members, including Chairman Edward R. Reilly, a Crofton Republican, and Pamela G. Beidle, a Linthicum Democrat, are deferring to Cathleen M. Vitale, a Severna Park Republican, on the matter. Vitale has taken the lead on previous panhandling legislation.

She could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The council could soon be in a position to add panhandling restrictions after state Del. John R. Leopold brokered a rare deal last month to piggyback onto a Montgomery County delegation bill language to prohibit those under 18 from panhandling.

Leopold, a Pasadena Republican, also sponsored legislation that passed two years ago giving the county the option to enact a system of permits for those who solicit money from drivers. Ten other states have such programs, said Leopold. They have proven effective in curbing the number of panhandlers on roads, he said.

But the council and County Executive Janet S. Owens, a Democrat, have shied away from requiring permits for people who solicit on street corners and medians.

Said Dillon: "You are not solving anything" by requiring permits. "You are creating a new level of bureaucracy." He also questioned the legality of a permit program, contending that regulating panhandlers could make the county liable if there were an accident.

Leopold said the county would not be liable, based on conversations he has had with the state attorney general's office. A candidate for county executive, he said restricting panhandling would be a priority in his administration.

"I don't think we need a fatality to move forward" with a permit program, he said.

Leopold said the council, by making use of the two pieces of legislation, could "build momentum toward solving 95 percent of the problem."

phill.mcgowan@baltsun.com

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