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Kennewick reconsidering panhandling ban after court rulings

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KENNEWICK, Wash. (AP) _ The city of Kennewick is reconsidering its panhandling ban after a pair of court rulings expanded free speech rights to noncommercial signs.

The Tri-City Herald says the ban is likely unconstitutional and the Kennewick City Council received an update on the legal status of its code last week. The city plans to take a larger look at the rules for noncommercial signs next year.

The law passed three years ago prohibits panhandling at intersections where there is no safe place for vehicles to pull aside to interact with panhandlers.

This summer, the Washington State Supreme Court struck down nearly identical law in Lakewood, saying that city’s “begging” ordinance is an unconstitutional restriction on First Amendment free speech rights.

Last year, the nation’s highest court said regulating the content of signs must serve a compelling government interest.