The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida has raised concerns with the city of Pensacola about a proposed panhandling ordinance, arguing that there are “serious legal and policy problems with the proposed ordinance.”
In a March letter to the Pensacola City Council, the ACLU raised First Amendment issues with the proposed ordinance, and suggested officials review the recent Supreme Court ruling of Reed v. Town of Gilbert, Arizona “to get a full understanding of the legal ramifications of this type of ordinance.”
The Pensacola City Council will consider April 13 an ordinance which would ban panhandling from the downtown core. It includes a financial penalties for infractions, with a fee schedule up to $400. Critics contend that the ordinance targets the homeless community.
“As a policy matter,” ACLU attorney Jacqueline Azis wrote in the letter, “the social and fiscal consequences of this proposed ordinance are significant.”
The letter ended with a request to the city to reject the proposed panhandling ordinance. In previous discussions, the city attorney has assured city council members that the ordinance has been crafted to cut constitutional mustard.