Orlando rolls back panhandling ordinance, beefs up traffic obstruction rules

ORLANDO, Fla. — Residents can say goodbye to the blue-painted boxes that once regulated where people could panhandle thanks to a move by the Orlando City Council Monday.

The city will now allow panhandlers to publicly solicit were and when they want, but the added freedom comes with a caveat.

As part of amending the city’s panhandling ordinance to remove many rules and regulations about location and times, the City Council added a provision that makes it illegal to physically take something from a driver.

In essence, a person can panhandle on the curb, but if they physically take something from a driver, they would be breaking the law under the amended ordinance.

The city made the changes after recent federal court rulings called restrictions on panhandling into question.

“This is a public safety issue, so I appreciate especially that, because that’s become a real problem in my district as well,” Commissioner Patty Sheehan said.

Orlando resident Shawn Cane, though, disagreed that the changed ordinance had anything to do with traffic obstruction.

“This is not about a guy on the street,” he said. “This is a solicitation from homeless people. And don’t take me to a dance saying it isn’t.”

There were questions about how the amended ordinance would affect community groups and charities from raising money from drivers.

“Will they be arrested? Or how would we work that piece out?” Commissioner Regina Hill asked. “Have we thought that far?”

The city will begin educating those groups on how to raise money within the new regulations, and Mayor Buddy Dyer said he thinks they will help protect citizens in Orlando.