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LOUISVILLE, KY (WDRB) -- The Metro Council is a vote away from passing a proposed ordinance that would lessen the penalties for those who beg for money while at the same time targeting so-called "aggressive panhandlers."
Councilman Jerry Miller, R-Council District 18, says the ordinance is meant to more clearly define the difference between passive and aggressive panhandling. Miller says the current law is unclear and is tying up the court system and jails with 90-day sentences for those convicted of panhandling.
"So we decriminalize passive panhandling," Miller said in an interview with WDRB News. It's a civil fine somewhat like a parking ticket."
Under the proposed ordinance, "passive" panhandlers – essentially those who ask or hold a sign asking for money – would face a $25 fine. If fined three times in a year, they could face jail time.
Aggressive panhandling is defined as those who:
Cause fear of bodily harm
Use obscene or abusive language
Intimidate a person
Approach another person before sunrise or after sunset
Follow someone who refuses to donate
Or panhandle within 6 feet from the edge of a freeway entrance or exit ramp
Aggressive panhandlers would also be kept 20 feet from the entrance or exit to any entertainment venue.
Chris Caudill has been panhandling near the exit ramp to Interstate 64 for nearly a month. He's hoping someone's generosity will help him get through the rough times.
In our few minutes together, Chris earned $6 from two different cars.
"The most I've made is $40, in maybe like an hour," Caudill said.
Caudill claims his criminal record prevents him from getting a job, and he doesn't like the way the homeless shelters are run in Louisville, so he doesn't stay there.
His behavior seems passive, he's just holding a sign.
But under the new proposed Metro Council ordinance, Caudill would be considered "aggressive" because he's standing within six feet from the edge an interstate ramp.
"I sleep underneath the viaduct and I gotta have a buzz to go to sleep," Caudill said.
MIller says behavior like that is "unsafe so it's treated under the aggressive side. But if you're six feet from the pavement it's not considered aggressive."
Councilman Jerry Miller says the law would more clearly define aggressive versus passive panhandling. Miller says panhandling isn't illegal but the city is trying to regulate the time and manner in which it's done.
"It don't bother me really, I'm gonna still come out here," said Caudill.
The full Metro Council is expected to vote on the issue on Aug. 23.