Gov. Lujan Grisham proposes restrictions on panhandling during gubernatorial debate

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Panhandling is something people see across Albuquerque, and New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham proposed something new this past week – restrictions on panhandling.

“We’re going to need to do a little tough love,” said Lujan Grisham during KOB 4’s governor’s race debate. “I plan to propose, in the next legislative session, restrictions on panhandling and trespassing for this population.”

Tommy Lopez: “This is a really thorny issue to create law around.”

Joshua Kastenberg: “It is because you can sympathize, and I certainly do, with the general public who – most people are more than willing to give time and money to charities, but often interfacing with people presents a danger.”

Kastenberg, a UNM law professor, pointed out that many attempts to restrict panhandling have not held up in court often because of freedom of speech concerns – including an attempt in Albuquerque that a judge squashed last year.

“They were written too broadly,” said Kastenberg. 

Places in the U.S. have tried to do this to keep roads clear, avoid pedestrian crashes, or increase public safety. The localities that have successfully put in restrictions did so in one of two ways – some targeted specific intersections with data on crashes or problematic interactions.

“You could create restricted areas. You could say you cannot panhandle in areas that present a danger to the public,” Kastenberg said.

Or they outlawed  “aggressive panhandling,” meaning people can’t be hostile.

“If you try to outlaw it in a certain blanket manner, those laws will fail,” explained Kastenberg. 

And that’s not where the challenges end.

Tommy Lopez: “What differentiates that from some kids on the side of the road holding up a sign, asking for donations for their school book drive?”

“That’s exactly right. There is nothing that differentiates that,” said Kastenberg. “The law can’t favor kids over adults. It can’t favor people who want to go on a field trip over people who have been out of work, it doesn’t work that way.”

In Albuquerque, some city councilors haven’t given up on the idea. 

On Monday, the council is set to discuss a change aimed at keeping all people out of certain medians, citing pedestrian safety. This is the first time any mention of panhandling restrictions from the governor.  

Homelessness was just one topic Lujan Grisham and Republican challenger Mark Ronchetti discussed during KOB 4’s debate last week.  

Click here to watch KOB 4’s gubernatorial debate.