Montgomery County bill on permits for panhandling withdrawn
Del. Kaiser takes legislation off the table; council members vow future action
A Montgomery County delegate withdrew a state bill this morning that could have led to a ban on roadside solicitation in Montgomery County, just before the county's delegation was scheduled to discuss and vote on it.
Del. Anne Kaiser (D-Dist. 14) of Burtonsville announced she was withdrawing the bill in a brief note to the county delegation's chairman, Del. Brian J. Feldman (D-Dist. 15) of Potomac, before the delegation was scheduled to begin discussing the bill today in Annapolis.
The legislation would have enabled the county to create a permitting system for the solicitation of money on the county's roads. However, recent discussions have centered on an amendment to the bill that would have also allowed the County Council to ban roadside solicitations altogether.
Kaiser did not explain why she was withdrawing the legislation in her note to Feldman. Kaiser could not be immediately reached this morning.
The County Council had supported the amendment allowing it to ban roadside solicitations, on the grounds that the solicitations are unsafe. County Executive Isiah Leggett (D) supports the permitting system for both panhandlers and those raising money for charity.
Councilman Philip M. Andrews (D-Dist. 3) of Gaithersburg, chairman of the council's Public Safety Committee who was at the delegation meeting today, predicted that had a vote been taken, the amendment would likely have passed.
He said he had been expecting Del. Aruna Miller (D-Dist. 15) of Darnestown to introduce the amendment with the option to ban.
"This is not over," Andrews said.
Councilman Craig L. Rice (D-Dist. 2) of Germantown said the council ultimately wanted the bill voted on and added, "Basically what the delegation has done is punted."
But John Sparks, president of the Montgomery County Career Fire Fighters Association IAFF Local 1664, expressed disappointment that Kaiser withdrew her bill, calling the permitting system a fair proposal.
Firefighters have opposed a ban on roadside solicitations, arguing that it would hurt their "fill the boot" fundraising campaign for the Muscular Dystrophy Association that collects money from drivers.
He dismissed safety concerns from council members, saying that there had never been any prior injuries or accidents related to roadside solicitations in the county.
"It's a perception of the safety problems," Sparks said.
Last year, firefighters raised $240,000 for county families. Sparks said he was appalled that council members were targeting firefighters' charitable fundraising. Still, he said, absent any legislation, the fundraising could continue.
"The status quo is good for us," Sparks said.