With the help of attorney Brian Barnard, three homeless people busted for panhandling on the side of a road have filed a lawsuit against Salt Lake City Police, as well as city and state officials. Their contention is that a state law prohibiting the solicitation of money for either charity or a business from the occupant of a car is not being enforced fairly. Instead, homeless panhandlers are being cited, while anyone hawking cell phones or pizza or raising money for a charitable organization can target people in cars without retribution. The lawsuit, more than anything, reinforces the fact that passing laws to punish the indigent—which seems to be Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker’s preferred strategy to solving the homeless problem—is not going to help anyone.
Multiple complaints have surfaced against Mike Lee, who is running against Tim Bridgewater for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Bob Bennett, for his advocacy of bills supported by 1-800-CONTACTS and Allied Waste during the past two legislative sessions. Lee argues he was acting as legal counsel for the companies and not lobbying, so he did not need to register. Given the expansive gray area within the state definition of lobbyist, Lee is probably right, and even if he’s not, the failure to register is only a $1,000 fine, and would not impact his candidacy. That is, unless voters focus on Lee’s hypocrisy, because he has repeatedly criticized Bridgewater for his lobbying activities on behalf of the Thai Frozen Food Association (yum-o!). Utah voters, meet your new senator, same as the old senator.