State lawmakers are just one step away from making it a crime to hang around a street corner and look for work.
With only minimal discussion, the Senate gave preliminary approval Tuesday to legislation which would bar anyone from being on any public road, sidewalk or adjacent public property to offer labor or services in exchange for compensation. Violators could be charged with trespass and jailed for up to six months.
Another provision provides identical penalties for those on private property who refuse to leave.
The measure is aimed almost exclusively at “day laborers,” people who often congregate near home improvement stores or gas stations in hope of getting some work. Some of the measure’s supporters believe many of those who solicit employment that way are not in this country legally. But HB2589 makes no distinction about a person’s immigration status.
And Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills, said it’s not just aimed at laborers: His measure also makes it a crime for anyone looking for workers to be in the same places.
A final Senate roll call will send the measure to the governor.
The only debate provoked Tuesday about the legislation was over the legality of the first part of the bill.
Sen. Albert Hale, D-Window Rock, questioned how the Legislature could make it illegal for anyone to be on a public sidewalk. Hale, an attorney, said courts have consistently said any infringements on basic rights — in this case, the right to assemble — must be very carefully tailored to meet only the absolute governmental need.
But Kavanagh said the measure is constitutional.
“It is not just illegal to stand on the street,” he said. “Before you trigger the provisions of this law, you have to be standing on or near the street, you have to be soliciting day labor, and most importantly, you have to be disrupting traffic.”