Law change permits charitable street collections again

FLINT TWP. — Come Friday, December 9, the Old Newsboys’ Newspaper Sales Day will return to township streets, thanks to a new law signed last week by Gov. Rick Snyder that allows charitable organizations to conduct street sales with some restrictions.

For the past two years, the Newsboy’s annual newspaper sale, its biggest fundraiser of the year, was forced to move to off-road collection sites after the township passed an ordinance targeting panhandlers that also impacting legitimate charities.

The township’s Traffic Safety Ordinance, effective in March 2015, banning street solicitation, was based on Michigan traffic law.

Last summer, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette issued an opinion affirming that the state’s “Uniform Traffic Code, prohibits a person in the improved portion of a roadway from soliciting contributions in support of a civic or charitable organization from the occupant of any vehicle.”

A violation of this rule constitutes a civil infraction.

A bill introduced in February of this year by State Representative Shane Hernandez of Port Huron passed the house and senate and was signed by Gov. Snyder last week, effective immediately.

“Praise the Lord,’’ was the response from Chris Hamilton, executive director of the Old Newsboys located in Mundy Township but serving children county- wide for nearly 100 years.

Hamilton said he was told that the law was spearheaded by the Lion’s & Lionesses’ Clubs.

“I’m glad that Gov. Snyder signed the legislation. … It helps a lot of non-profits that count on that one day a year they are out on the corners.”

The new law, PA 112 of 2017, amended the Michigan Traffic Code law, but does include several conditions, including that the organization has liability insurance; that collectors be at least 18 years old and wear high visibility clothing in compliance with safety equipment standards; that the collections take place at intersection with traffic lights or stop signs and be conducted only during the daytime. Also, collections cannot take place in a work zone and local government units still have some say on regulating those collections.

The township has until September 25 to amend its ordinance, said Clerk Kathy Funk, who said she has monitored progress of the legislation along with the township’s attorney, Peter Goodstein.

“Our ordinance will continue to mirror state traffic laws, while being compliant with HB4160 (now Pa112), she said, noting that under the new law, the fundraising can only be conducted by qualified charitable, civic, and veterans’ organizations. It also requires that specific safety, liability, and age restrictions be followed.

Attorney General Bill Schuette also issued a statement supporting the new law.

“I am pleased to see the Legislature approve and the Governor sign into law a bill that will allow Michigan charities to collect donations to so many important causes,” he said.” The nickels and dollars donated in the moments cars wait at stop lights or signs helps so many.”

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