Less than two weeks after a federal judge put the brakes on the city of Boise's anti-panhandling ordinance, the Boise City Council will take up changes to the ordinance, which was supposed to go into effect at the beginning of the year.
On Jan. 2, U.S. District Judge Edward Lodge ruled in favor of the ACLU of Idaho in its suit against the city, which enacted new legislation to prohibit solicitation for donations "colored by intimidation, obstruction of right-of-way or repeated attempts at solicitation after a negative response." The anti-panhandling measure came under fire from a number of homeless advocates, but the Boise City Council voted 3-1 in September to support the crackdown, with only Councilwoman Lauren McLean voting no.
Judge Lodge wrote that the purpose of the ordinance was to "suppress particular speech” and that the case “is not about whether being asked for a donation of money on a sidewalk makes a person feel uncomfortable,” but instead “about whether under our Constitution a person has a First Amendment right to ask for money” in public. “Business owners and residents simply not liking panhandlers in acknowledged public areas does not rise to a significant governmental interest,” the court concluded.
An announcement from Boise City Hall late Friday said the revised version "maintains provisions of the ordinance prohibiting aggressive solicitation, which the judge's decision did not disallow and are considered by the mayor and Council to be the most significant portion of the proposed ordinance."
The revised ordinance would delete a portion of the ordinance that the court ruled likely to be overturned.
"It's important that we have an ordinance in place that helps alleviate unwanted solicitation while upholding Constitutionally protected rights," said Mayor Dave Bieter in the announcement. "This process has allowed the city to find that careful balance and will let us move forward with the most effective ordinance possible."