N.O. lawmaker wants crackdown on prostitution, panhandling - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports

N.O. lawmaker wants crackdown on prostitution, panhandling

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NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) -

State Rep. Austin Badon, D-New Orleans, is pushing for a crackdown on what he calls statewide "quality of life" issues.

"Law enforcement asked me to bring about this bill about to address the growing problem of prostitution across Louisiana," he said. "And it'll also address the growing problem of panhandling that you see at every red light or every entrance or exit ramp along the interstate."

The bill would give police more leeway in questioning suspected prostitutes, and it would essentially ban panhandling.

Badon believes a majority of people in the latter category misrepresent themselves.

"These (panhandlers) have cell phones. They have computers. When you see them, they're getting in vehicles with out-of-state license plates," he said.

On Thursday, FOX 8 saw a man and woman panhandling along Earhart Boulevard.

While recording video of the two, we then watched as they packed up their signs, hopped into a Chevy Tahoe with Mississippi plates, and drove away.

But whether a panhandler is truly in need or not shouldn't matter, according to Marjorie Esman, who heads up Louisiana's ACLU chapter.

"The U.S. Supreme Court and the Louisiana Supreme Court have ruled repeatedly that any prohibitions against asking somebody else for money are violations against the First Amendment," Esman said.

As for the aspect of Badon's bill that targets prostitution, Esman said it's unnecessary.

"There's nothing this bill does with respect to prostitution that's not already covered. Prostitution is already a crime," she said.

However, Badon said the measure passes legal muster, and he believes it will make a difference.

"The word has gotten out (amongst panhandlers and prostitutes). Police don't have a tough mechanism to come down and crack down on these individuals. So, therefore, they're out all over the place," Badon said. "It's a quality of life issue that we shouldn't have to deal with, and other people in other parts of the country, you know, they're not dealing with that."

The bill passed through the state House by vote of 89-0. It now heads to the Senate.

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