Gov. Gary Herbert on Monday signed HB145, a bill aimed at cutting down on roadside areas where panhandlers may seek money.

It newly bans panhandling on roads with a median — either raised or flat, including the grassy medians on many low-speed-limit Salt Lake City streets — and roads that share space with rail tracks, such as for TRAX light rail.

Last year, the Legislature outlawed panhandling at freeway exits and along high-speed highways by taking a different approach than previous, similar laws that were struck down as unconstitutional.

The old laws specifically targeted panhandling, which courts ruled is a protected form of free speech. The new law — which takes effect May 8 — is ostensibly designed to improve pedestrian safety.

Feb. 6: House votes to shrink where panhandling is allowed on roads

The House voted Tuesday to further reduce where panhandling is allowed — but it never used the word “panhandling.”

It voted 67-0 to approve HB145, which is officially a “pedestrian safety bill.” It now goes to the Senate for approval.

“We don’t want individuals soliciting funds or interacting with a driver for safety reasons,” said Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, sponsor of the bill.

It newly bans panhandling on roads with a median — either raised or flat, including the grassy medians on many low-speed-limit Salt Lake City streets — and roads that share space with rail tracks, such as for TRAX light rail.

Last year, the Legislature outlawed panhandling at freeway exits and along high-speed highways by taking a different approach than previous, similar laws that were struck down as unconstitutional.

The old laws specifically targeted panhandling, which courts ruled is a protected form of free speech. The new laws ostensibly are designed to improve pedestrian safety, and Eliason says they do not infringe on free speech.

He said people still, for example, may hold up signs seeking money on medians. “But you need to make the exchange in a safe spot” out of traffic.

Eliason said he decided to add more provisions this year after an incident when he pulled to a stop next to a median where someone — who had been panhandling — was passed out. He stopped in traffic to help rouse the man, and said he figured exchanging money in such areas is also dangerous.

TRACK THIS BILL

Expands the areas near roadways where panhandling is banned. - Read full text

Current Status:

Filed Law Introduced in House House Committee House passage Senate Committee Senate passage Governor's OK

Jan. 26: Utah lawmakers want to prohibit panhandling on more roads

Panhandlers may soon find their territory shrinking.

The House Transportation Committee on Thursday unanimously endorsed HB145, which expands the list of areas where panhandling or other traffic-impeding activity by pedestrians is banned.

It adds roads with a median — either raised or flat, including the grassy medians on many low-speed-limit Salt Lake City streets — and roads that share space with rail tracks, such as for TRAX light rail.

Last year, the Legislature outlawed panhandling at freeway exits and along high-speed highways by taking a different approach than previous, similar laws that were struck down as unconstitutional.

The old laws specifically targeted panhandling, which courts ruled is a protected form of free speech. The new laws ostensibly are designed to improve pedestrian safety.

Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, sponsor of the bills both years, said, “We’re not in any way touching people’s free speech.”

He said people still, for example, may hold up signs seeking money on medians. “But you need to make the exchange in a safe spot” out of traffic.

Eliason said he decided to add more provisions this year after an incident when he pulled to a stop next to a median where someone — who had been panhandling — was passed out. He stopped in traffic to help rouse the man, and said he figured exchanging money in such areas is also dangerous.

Scott Sommerdorf | The Salt Lake Tribune Rep. Steve Eliason, R-Sandy, listens to a short debate about his bill, HB461 - Abortion Waiting Period - in the Utah House of Representatives, Monday, March 5, 2012. The bill passed easily.

The Utah Highway Patrol reported last year that it used enforcement of that new pedestrian safety law to help identify and round up criminals in Operation Rio Grande in the downtown area of Salt Lake frequented by the homeless.

Highway Patrol Lt. Jeff Nigbur earlier said his bosses asked troopers to give extra attention to enforcing any violations of the new law they saw near downtown Salt Lake City freeway exits.

The first three panhandlers stopped “had outstanding warrants. So they were arrested, and all three were found to have illegal narcotics on them,” Nigbur said.

Over the next couple of days as more stops were made for violating the new law, “About half of them led to arrests,” he said, also for outstanding warrants and/or drug possession.