POLITICS
04/14/2011 04:57 pm ET | Updated Jun 14, 2011

Florida Senate Mulls Issuing Permits To Panhandlers

As you know, we're very patiently waiting for the Florida legislature to finally pass their long-awaited anti-bestiality law. In the meantime, what are those cats up to? Oh, hey, it says here that they are going to require homeless people to carry a permit to panhandle. Wait. What now?

It all goes back to SB 1180, a transportation bill that has a bunch of new regulations and rules. It was recently passed out of the Florida Senate's Budget Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development Appropriations by a unanimous vote. Yet somehow, panhandling got all mixed up in it. Here's Brett Henzi, at the Florida Tribune:

But one part of the bill that came under fire on Wednesday would require a permit to panhandle and would authorize fines for people who don't have one and fraudulently panhandle. Local governments, however, would be able to opt out by a majority vote.

Great, because what Florida definitely needs right now is robust government oversight over "fraudulent panhandling." What is that exactly? Does that mean the government is going to rigorously patrol the claims made by panhandlers as they appeal to people for sympathy? Actually, that's exactly what it means.

Sen. Jack Latvala, R-St. Petersburg and whose district has had an ongoing battle in dealing with panhandling, said the proposal is not meant to hurt the homeless. He said it is an attempt to go after those people who lie and are in fact financially stable, but choose to panhandle.

"If you say that you're pregnant, you better be," said Latvala. "If you say you're homeless, you need to be. If you say you are a veteran, you darn well should have been."

That's an interesting proposal, to say the least. I have to say that I agree with GOP strategist and blogger Liz Mair when she calls this "a pretty epic small government #fail."

For starters, this is exactly the kind of thing that state government should keep its nose out of and leave the issue to localities (which this legislation apparently recognizes is to some degree smart because it allows "opt-outs," though it still proceeds with a bad idea nonetheless).

But beyond that, it's also likely to prove ineffectual and pointless. Who wants to make a bet with me that basically no one who currently panhandles, whether genuinely in need and homeless or not, is going to go apply for this permit, whether they make it free or not?

And to finish off, let's just stipulate that the number of people out there who think this is a good use of legislative time can probably be reduced exactly to Jack Latvala and his chums in the legislature. Cut spending and rein in idiotic, excessive regulation exactly like this? Nah... Jack Latvala says, let's do more that's nonsensical, especially since we live in a state racked by foreclosures where it's likely some much more consequential types of fraud have occurred than some lady on the corner taking you for fifty cents because she said she was preggers. OMG!!!

I'm going to guess that if anyone applies for this permit at all, 100% of the people who do will attempt to qualify for a hardship waiver. But hey, it's a great way to catch all of the affluent Flordians who are out doing "hobbyist panhandling" in this super-effective fraud dragnet.

(Maybe some lawmakers could come up with a plan to just ameliorate the homelessness problem, though? This is just an idea I had.)

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