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Posted at 5:27 PM ET, 02/ 3/2011

Leggett seeking law to help curb money raising along Montgomery roads

By Michael Laris

Montgomery County executive Isiah Leggett is asking state legislators for permission to tighten rules on raising money along roadways.

The gist:

Firefighters: get a permit.

Panhandlers: get help elsewhere.

Leggett's proposal comes a year after he set up a Roadway Solicitation Task Force. Members concluded Montgomery has many programs for the homeless and needy, and they should be steered there, not given cash through a car window.

Giving and taking money on the road can be dangerous for drivers and recipients, and "conveys a feeling of disorder in the community," the task force said.

It's already against state law to solicit on a roadway. Under Leggett's proposal, raising money from a median strip or "sidewalk adjacent to a roadway" would be prohibited without a permit.

Details would need to be worked out in a local law, according to Joy Nurmi, the county staff member working with the task force. First, the state would have to pass enabling legislation.

The permits would have to be easy to obtain, Nurmi said. "Basically the government can't place barriers in the way of getting a permit," she said, citing a state legal opinion on the constitutionality of such efforts. Also, the target is not general fundraising that happens to occur on a sidewalk, she said. Rather, it's directed at people seeking money from those driving on a road.

Curbs on soliciting have been put in place elsewhere in Maryland and across the country. An earlier push for a broader measure in Montgomery failed, in part because of concerns raised by firefighters. Firefighters collected $212,000 in their "Fill the Boot" Muscular Dystrophy campaign in 2010.

An interesting survey of anti-panhandling efforts nationwide begins on page 10 of the full report.

By Michael Laris  | February 3, 2011; 5:27 PM ET
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