MONTGOMERY, Ala. -- Leaders in Alabama's capital have rejected a measure that would impose jail time on motorists who give handouts to roadway panhandlers.
News outlets report the Montgomery City Council rejected a proposal to criminalize the act of handing money or anything else to someone from a car in a road. Opponents packed their meeting Tuesday night, many wearing stickers declaring "poverty is not a crime." One man held a sign saying "Jesus was a panhandler."
The proposal would have amended a law passed in July that requires a jail term of at least two days and a fine for anyone who panhandles. The ordinance, which includes escalating jail terms for repeat offenses, was unanimously passed in July but hasn't been enforced because it wasn't signed by Mayor Todd Strange, who cited potential legal problems.
Strange did not seek re-election, and Steven Reed takes over as Montgomery's first black mayor on Nov. 12. Reed did not immediately respond to a tweet seeking comment on the law Wednesday.
The meeting grew emotional at times. While leaders have called the law an answer to public safety issues, opponents said the city was trying to make it a crime to be poor.
Speaking against the proposal, the Rev. Edward Nettles said many people are just one decision away from living on the streets.
"Panhandling may be an eyesore to the city, but it's survival to those who are on the streets. There are veterans. There are people out there at no fault of their own," he said.
The Montgomery Advertiser reported that at least 30 people got up from their seats after Councilman Charles Jinright asked everyone who was against the panhandling ordinance to stand.
Another council member, Audrey Graham, said she didn't want to rush the matter.
"As I see the amount of people that are here today and the concern, I wonder if we should deal with it more before we officially pass it," she said.
Information from: Montgomery Advertiser, http://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com