Bill to ban panhandling in New Mexico tabled in committee

Bill to ban panhandling in New Mexico tabled in committee

A bill that would limit solicitation in public roadways and spaces has been tabled by the Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee.

SANTA FE, N.M. — Panhandling is something many New Mexicans have seen at street corners and intersections. In her State of the State address, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said addressing panhandling was one of her top priorities.

This legislative session, Sen. Leo Jaramillo sponsored Senate Bill 248 on the issue.

“The bill limits solicitation in public roadways and spaces and creates a new misdemeanor offense of aggressive solicitation, which is anyone asking for money closer than three feet to the person being solicited,” Jaramillo said before the Senate Health and Public Affairs Committee meeting Wednesday night.

The governor was there during the meeting Wednesday night for a different bill about housing, but left her senior public safety advisor Ben Baker to speak on her behalf about the panhandling bill.

The debate was met with opposition during public comment, including from New Mexico ACLU Director of Policy Nayomi Valdez.

“We strongly oppose this bill,” Valdez said. “Not only is it patently unconstitutional but for the reasons some other folks mentioned here, the criminalization of homelessness and those who choose to help those people in their most desperate circumstances is simply unacceptable. If we don’t want people on the streets, then we have to house them.”

Those who oppose the bill said it would make it even harder for a homeless person to find work and housing with a criminal record and said there’s no way for police to enforce the bill constantly.

Several committee members also opposed the bill, like Republican Sen. Greg Nibert.

“I support you on the public safety issue, but I think we’ve gone a little far there and I would encourage you to look at that issue and determine whether or not you need to bring that in a little bit,” Nibert said.

Later, Sen. Bill Tallman called to table the bill, which the committee did unanimously.

The bill could still be reworked and heard again, but with only a week left in the session, that seems unlikely.