Sarasota County approves new panhandling ordinance

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SARASOTA - County commissioners approved an emergency ordinance Wednesday concerning panhandling laws in an effort to make sure its panhandling laws can withstand a constitutional challenge.

The new wording of the ordinance basically says that from now on, it will be illegal for people to step into the road to distribute, receive, or exchange any item with drivers.

This change comes after a judge struck down the City of Sarasota's soliciting ordinance, claiming it targeted the homeless by limiting free speech.

The new county ordinance allows people to ask for money or assistance, just as long as they stay on the curb.

Now commissioners say that in addition to protecting the law from a legal challenge, it's also a matter of public safety.

We're not sure yet how this ordinance affects other groups. It seems that since it prohibits anyone from standing in the street to collect money, it could impact firefighters who conduct their boot drives each year by collecting money from drivers while going from car to car.