Grand Junction changes panhandling law after legal challenge from ACLU

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. - City councilors unanimously approved changes to their panhandling ordinance after a legal challenge.

The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel reports that at a meeting Wednesday night, councilors removed a prohibition on knowingly panhandling from at-risk individuals and near school grounds. It also reduced a no-begging zone around bus stops and ATMs from 100 to 20 feet.

A final change to the ordinance includes deleting a section that bans solicitors from panhandling off state and federal highways, the newspaper said. However, panhandlers still could not step into the roadway to accept donations, according to the amended ordinance.

Soon after the ordinance was adopted in February, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a federal suit against the city on behalf of five local residents and a nonprofit group that raises funds on the city's streets.

One of the plaintiffs is described as an "at-risk" person under the ordinance who wishes to continue to receive requests for help. The ACLU says the ordinance places unconstitutionally broad restrictions on speech.
The ordinance, which was slated to go into effect March 23, has never been enforced on the advice of the city attorney.

Further discussion will happen before a decision is made about when to begin enforcement of the newly worded ordinance.

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