Louisiana Bill Criminalizes Begging. What's Next? Being Homeless?

You'd think living in the streets, being forced to beg to eat was harsh enough conditions for a person, but not according to State Rep. Austin Badon (D), who authored a bill that's criminalizing begging.

You'd think living in the streets, being forced to beg to eat was harsh enough for a person, but not according to State Rep. Austin Badon (D), who authored a bill that's criminalizing panhandling, hitchhiking and prostitution.

So if you're wet, cold, homeless and hungry, you better not start begging.

A new bill to outlaw panhandling is quickly moving its way through the Louisiana legislature.HB 1158 would criminalize solicitation, making it a misdemeanor punishable with a maximum fine of $200 and up to six months in jail. The bill is targeted not just at panhandlers, but hitchhikers and those engaged in prostitution as well.

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The bill’s author, State Rep. Austin Badon (D), told Post TV that he hoped that banning begging will somehow lead to fewer poor people on the streets. He doubted that many were in actual need, saying, “they’re paying their cell phone bills, they’re paying their computer bills. It’s a racket.”

Badon is echoing a familiar trope — that panhandlers are living large from others’ charity. But it’s not based on any actual research. In fact, a major study of panhandlers in San Francisco last year found just the opposite: the vast majority make $25 a day ($9,125 per year) or less. That meager income is largely used to eat. Nearly every beggar — 94 percent — said they used the money they receive for food; less than half used it for drugs or alcohol.

Yea, what a racket these people have. Stare Rep. Badon sounds like a typical conservative politician. And even if people were begging to pay their bills, so what. What's next, being homeless? If the Supreme Court rules that corporations are people and can spend insane amounts of money on politics then why can't people ask others for money? And how does he link begging with prostitution? This is unconstitutional in my book.

Many municipalities around the country have passed anti-panhandling laws, but they usually do so under the guise of banning “aggressive panhandling,” an undefined term that attempts to circumvent various court rulings that the First Amendment protects people’s right to ask others for money. It is far less common to see states like Louisiana attempt to criminalize begging outright.


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What Digby Said: The conservative jobs program: become a criminal

If they decide to apply this to email solicitations for money I might be inclined to support it.

Obviously, this is nuts. There is such a thing as free speech. In fact, the Supreme Court has gone so far as to say that moneyitself is a form of speech. So how in the world can it be constitutional to make it illegal to ask for money? It's the basis of our entire system!

This is also yet another example of the conservatives promoting their jobs program: become a thief or a prostitute. With their cuts to unemployment insurance, food stamps, their opposition to any kind of subsidized health care and now even banning begging in the streets, they are literally leaving these people no alternative but to become criminals.

The upside is that the police and prison industrial complex will be extremely well compensated by the taxpayers and it will add up to a hell of lot more money than a couple of bucks in a tin can. But if they play their cards right, Louisiana will eventually get prison slave labor fully legalized and they'll be able to "give back."

And then their long lost world will be returned to them.

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