State lawmakers have taken the first steps to make it illegal for people to stand on street corners and look for work.
The House Judiciary Committee voted 6-4 Thursday to increase the penalty for trespassing on private commercial property after being asked to leave.
Under the terms of HB2589, offenders could end up spending up to six months in jail, instead of the current maximum 30 days behind bars.
But the real teeth in the measure was an entirely new section of law that would criminalize being on a public street or other public property “for the purpose of soliciting personal employment.” That, too, would carry a potential six-month jail term.
The measure is aimed at day laborers who hang out on street corners looking for work, not so much at people on corners with “will work for food” signs.
Rep. John Kavanagh, RFountain Hills. said the situation has gotten out of control.
Kavanagh said the problem is particularly acute around home improvement superstores, where crowds of people approach passing vehicles in hopes of getting work.
Rep. Rich Crandall, R-Mesa, said he supports what Kavanagh is trying to do. But Crandall questioned whether passing yet another law will make a difference, particularly if police won’t take the time to enforce it.
“This bill will solve the problem in those jurisdictions that have police departments that are, in my opinion, responsive to the needs of the population, the wants of the population, the safety of the people,” Kavanagh responded.
Tim LaSota, a deputy Maricopa County attorney who helped craft the measure, agreed the problem has gotten out of hand.
“A lot of businesses are complaining about this situation,” he told lawmakers.
“Their parking lots have basically been turned into de facto day labor centers against their will,” LaSota said.
Rep. Ben Miranda, D-Phoenix, questioned whether the prohibition would withstand a legal challenge.
But LaSota said a similar Phoenix ordinance which bans begging for money or work has been upheld by a federal appeals court.
The measure does provide an exemption for those younger than 18. LaSota said he thought that would make the bill more palatable.