Tuesday, May 19, 2009

HB 2533: Class 3 if you're a reckless pest; Class 1 if you're soliciting employment.

Among the many statutory offenses codified in ARS Title 13 is "Obstructing a highway or other public thoroughfare", ARS 13-2906, which establishes as a class 3 misdemeanor recklessly (emphasis mine) interfer[ing] with the passage of any highway or public thoroughfare by creating an unreasonable inconvenience or hazard. A class 3 misdemeanor is considered a petty offense for military recruiting purposes and carries a maximum sentence of thirty days imprisonment.

Being heard today in the legislature is a bill, HB 2533 which makes it separately unlawful to solicit employment at the roadside if one impedes traffic, establishing this as a Class 1 misdemeanor. Class 1 misdemeanors are the most serious nonfelony offenses and carry a maximum sentence of six months of imprisonment.

You read that right: the bill's one and only sponsor, John Kavanagh, would have nonreckless roadside solicitation of employment, if it impedes traffic in the least bit, be a more serious event than reckless interference with passage. This is nothing more than an attempt to, like the vagrancy laws of old, criminalize being a bum, a cruel kick to the downtrodden down-and-out.

It's unlikely that this bill, establishing a more "serious" offense for less harmful conduct due to the content of the offender's communication, would be found constitutional if challenged. If the solicitor in question were after converts to a religion or even votes for John Kavanagh, he'd have to recklessly interfere with passage in order to run afoul of the law. Most of the time such bills get weeded out or amended in the Judiciary Committee, but this one hasn't been heard and isn't scheduled for said committee. That means it can't be passed, despite being heard in Committee of the Whole today, but I wouldn't put it past the House to suspend its own rules to get some bills of substance through during the last days of this session. Call your legislator, tell him how much this one stinks.

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