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Posted by on May 5, 2014 in Economy, Health, Politics | 13 comments

Louisiana aims to punish the homeless by making it illegal to beg

Photo: WBRZ

Photo: WBRZ

Oh, you’re a homeless person? Well, screw you.

That’s not me saying that, it’s the State of Louisiana, which is about to punish those who live on the streets, among others:

If you are poor, live in Louisiana, and have the audacity ask someone else for help, be prepared to spend up to six months in jail.

A new bill to outlaw panhandling is quickly moving its way through the Louisiana legislature. HB 1158 would criminalize solicitation, making it a misdemeanor punishable with a maximum fine of $200 and up to six months in jail. The bill is targeted not just at panhandlers, but hitchhikers and those engaged in prostitution as well.

The bill passed the Louisiana House last week by a vote of 89-0. There was no floor debate. It is now being taken up by the Senate, where it will be acted on Tuesday.

The bill’s author, State Rep. Austin Badon (D), told Post TV that he hoped that banning begging will somehow lead to fewer poor people on the streets. He doubted that many were in actual need, saying, “they’re paying their cell phone bills, they’re paying their computer bills. It’s a racket.”

Yes, that’s a “D” after his name. While Republicans dominate the world of ignorance and injustice, they do not quite have a monopoly over it. (And this Badon idiot is our Worst Democrat of the Day.)

Badon is echoing a familiar trope — that panhandlers are living large from others’ charity. But it’s not based on any actual research. In fact, a major study of panhandlers in San Francisco last year found just the opposite: the vast majority make $25 a day ($9,125 per year) or less. That meager income is largely used to eat.

It is simply insane to think that the homeless are voluntarily homeless or otherwise aren’t in desperate need of help. Many are are severely mentally ill and most certainly suffer from mental illness of some kind. By and large these are people who have been abused not just in their own lives but by a society that in many ways resembles the Hobbesian state of nature in its preference for brutality over dignity. Sure, many of them use drugs, but that’s because they’re addicts in need of help. It’s hardly a choice, and really what options do they have?

And of course with Louisiana we’re talking about a place with warm weather (that attracts those who have no other place to go but the streets), a terrible education system, poor health care generally, and various other social problems, not to mention a Republican governor (Bobby Jindal) and basically an entire political establishment that sees homelessness not just as a nuisance but as a criminal “racket,” as a problem to be criminalized instead of one that should arouse compassionate public policy to deal not just with homelessness itself but with the conditions that cause it.

Most of these idiots are supposedly being Christian, I suppose we can ask that stupid question of the Christianist ideology, what would Jesus do? Well, from what we’re told, he’d help the homeless, for he had nothing but compassion for the poor, and then call out the injustice all the around him. And in Louisiana, as in so many other places throughout our rich and prosperous land (for the few, as in his own time), he’d have an awful lot of it to call out.

Cross-posted from The Reaction

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  • sheknows

    “The bill’s author, State Rep. Austin Badon (D), told Post TV that he hoped that banning begging will somehow lead to fewer poor people on the streets. He doubted that many were in actual need, saying, “they’re paying their cell phone bills, they’re paying their computer bills. It’s a racket.”

    Uh, how will it lead to fewer poor people on the street again? Oh that’s right. Once they realize that begging for money is illegal, they will just stop being poor . That will put an end to that racket.

    89 unanimous, heartless, stupid , elected officials voted to do this….but can’t vote to do anything worthwhile to help the poor.

  • slamfu

    Wow, what do you say to that? I’m sure at least a few of those 89 votes are Christians of some stripe. Not that I think religious views should be coloring the laws that govern the land, but to outlaw something like charity on the street level, the personal level, seems like a pretty big over reach. Maybe someone can pass an religious freedom exception to this law rather draconian bit of govt regulation? Lol, again, wow.

  • JSpencer

    Is this a new way to feed the prison industrial complex? We all know who pays for that right? It seems like the states who bible thump the most have the most draconian views toward the less fortunate. Funny how that works…

  • yoopermoose

    If begging for money is banned, how are the politicians going to fill their coffers? If I lived in Louisiana, the first time a politician sent me an email begging for money, I would bring it to the attention of the authorities.

  • SteveK

    And don’t be surprised if some (many?) of the homeless in colder climes decide to ‘snowbird’ it to LA for 6 mos out of the cold…

  • sheknows

    ” to outlaw something like charity on the street level, the personal level, seems like a pretty big over reach.”

    Thanks Slam, we finally have a perfect example of that” government overreach” we keep hearing so much about!
    Momzworld makes a great point too.

    Btw, do they arrest the people who give money to the needy like they do for prostitution ?
    Would “giving money to the street poor” go on your permanent record?

  • sheknows

    Sorry, I meant Yoopermoose…not Momzworld.

  • ordinarysparrow

    Begging is a symptom of bigger problems… It appears little of that is addressed these days….

    When are we going to move from the i, me, mine, mentality to we and us? Government was set up for “we the people” …. beggars are people too…

  • I read the link to HB 1158. As far as I can tell it doesn’t resemble what is written above in the post or comments or the quote attributed to Rep. Austin Badon (D) .

    1 AN ACT
    2 To enact R.S. 14:107.5, relative to offenses affecting the general peace and order; to create
    3 the crime of solicitation of funds or transportation for certain unlawful purposes; to
    4 provide for criminal penalties; to provide for a definition of “sexual intercourse”; and
    5 to provide for related matters.
    6 Be it enacted by the Legislature of Louisiana:
    7 Section 1. R.S. 14:107.5 is hereby enacted to read as follows:
    8 §107.5. Solicitation of funds or transportation for certain unlawful purposes
    9 A. It shall be unlawful for any person to solicit funds or transportation from
    10 another to attract the person’s attention for the purpose of soliciting, and with the
    11 intention to solicit, the person to engage in indiscriminate sexual intercourse for
    12 compensation.
    13 B. For purposes of this Section, “sexual intercourse” means anal, oral, or
    14 vaginal sexual intercourse.
    15 C. Whoever violates the provisions of this Section shall be fined not more
    16 than two hundred dollars, imprisoned for not more than six months, or both.

    In California, it is illegal to solicit for alms or beg for money.

    According to California Penal Code 647C, “a person is guilty of disorderly conduct…only if the person accosts other persons…for the purpose of begging or soliciting alms.” In other words you can’t verbally ask someone for money or shove a sign in their face on public property.

    San Diego has a lot of panhandlers; usually on medians at very busy four way, three lane intersections that have two left turn lanes in addition to the three lane one ways. So the most far left hand turn lanes is the place to be if you want to assist during a red light stop.

    The men and women don’t ask out loud; but they carry signs asking (usually with a reason they are asking) and stay away from cars unless a window comes down. It’s look like damn hard work to me so I reward them. Plus the medians are usually heavily canted.

    I haven’t ever, in over thirty years here, seen a police officer stop any of them. They probably do if they break the law so I assume that is why they stay within the law.

    Some day I hope there are fewer unemployed, homeless, mentally ill and addicted on the streets. But still, reasonable laws to prevent prostitution on the street are good; as are laws that prevent direct accosts. It sounds like that is what Louisiana is doing.

  • And don’t be surprised if some (many?) of the homeless in colder climes decide to ‘snowbird’ it to LA for 6 mos out of the cold…

    That’s been happening since the cities were established.

  • Hmmm. I don’t see anything in the actual language of this law that prohibits panhandling. I don’t think State Rep Badon knows what his law does and doesn’t do. The actual language of the law is:

    §107.5. Solicitation of funds or transportation for certain unlawful purposes
    A. It shall be unlawful for any person to solicit funds or transportation from
    another to attract the person’s attention for the purpose of soliciting, and with the
    intention to solicit, the person to engage in indiscriminate sexual intercourse for
    compensation.

    My parsing of that language tells me that soliciting a person to engage in indiscriminate sexual intercourse for compensation, i.e. prostitution, is unlawful. I’ve looked at this law on the official Louisiana legislative website and find nothing different than the above, as linked in Michael’s article. I don’t know where State Rep Badon is coming from in calling this an anti-panhandling law. Maybe I’m missing something.

  • ordinarysparrow

    Kevin thanks for checking that out…

  • JSpencer

    What yoopermoose said!

    LIke Kevin I usually give people with the signs something too. I can’t imagine anyone would do that if they weren’t at the end of their rope.

    Some seem to think that kicking someone when they are already down makes good sense. Go figure…

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