At the September 26th meeting, the City Commission introduced an ordinance regarding public safety on roads and medians, which specifically addresses solicitation, and scheduled the first and only public hearing for October 17, 2018.
The current law states that an individual cannot approach vehicles in the street for certain reasons, including: soliciting or collecting donations or employment, and selling goods or services. Other types of communication are permissible, and certain permits allow for some actions.
The law has since come under review in response to the United States Supreme Court ruling in Reed v. Town of Gilbert. The case addressed the differentiation of certain rules applied to certain types of speech. For example, ideological signs and road signs are addressed differently in regards to these speech content rules.
Public areas such as roads and streets are deemed as public speech forums and protected by the First Amendment, and money solicitation falls under the protection of the First Amendment. The government retains the ability to regulate speech in the areas, but content based regulation is illegal and unconstitutional. Content based regulation is permissible so long as the government can prove that the regulation is the least restrictive means of furthering government interest. These types of regulations require strict scrutiny.
The Supreme Court ruled that any law that required speech differentiation required strict scrutiny. Many state courts, including Florida, have since ruled that differentiating pandering and other types of solicitation is unconstitutional. Thus, the current ordinance on road solicitation must come under review, as it is a content-based restriction.
But the concern for individuals occupying the public roadway still stands. A study of all car crashes involving a pedestrian in the streets from 2013-2017 reported 675 total incidents, 67 of which included improper pedestrian occupation in the roadway. This does not account for near-incident interactions or traffic delays caused by pedestrians.
The new ordinance proposes that it is unlawful to hold any sign in a median, which abolishes any need for content-based restriction. Pedestrians are allowed to communicate and exchange goods and/or services with another individual so long as either is not in a vehicle operating in traffic. Furthermore, pedestrians may hold signs on the sidewalk so long as there is no exchange with an individual in a vehicle.