As a libertarian, I have an uneasy feeling about this proposed legislation — which would require private businesses to do what the police aren’t allowed to do:

City councilman Darrell Clarke says it?s happening all too frequently. Panhandlers at gas stations, he says, intimidate drivers into letting them pump the gas for a handout:
“As soon as you get out of your car, go pay for your gas, you?re accosted by individuals insisting that they pump your gas, sometimes actually opening up your gas tank and putting the pump in while you?re paying for your gas. I think that is ridiculous.”
So Clarke has introduced a bill aimed at stopping this. It would place the responsibility on gas station owners to keep panhandlers away from the pumps or the owners themselves would faces fines up to $100 per incident.

I absolutely hate being panhandled, so my sympathies are with the people being asked for money. But having been a small business owner myself, I can tell you what a hassle it is to get the police to do anything about street derelicts who “hang out.” For the most part, they really can’t arrest them unless they break laws. And few cities have laws against panhandling. Those that do usually have “time, place and manner laws” like this one which was proposed in Atlanta.
But the street derelicts are a favorite cause (fodder, really) of professional activists who yell and scream about the “rights” of the “homeless” to do precisely such things as hassle people for money. This is deemed their First Amendment right. (And I could easily envision an activist construing a pushy attempt to grab a gas pump as “an attempt to find work.”)
Philadelphia has a 10 year plan to end homelessness, and even boasts a “homelessness Czar.” According to Philadelphia’s Project H.O.M.E. (which I just called on the phone) panhandling is not illegal in Philadelphia, and that organization generally opposes proposed legislation that would “target homeless people.”
But I am not at all sure this is a homelessness issue. Hassling people at gas pumps strikes me as an opportunistic way of shaking people down, but I see no reason why it would necessarily be linked to homelessness. Many people assume that people who ask for money are marginal types, and they equate this with homelessness, but I recall a study years ago in Berkeley found that a surprisingly large number of panhandlers actually lived at fixed, identifiable addresses, that many paid rent, and some made plenty of money panhandling.
While I do think gas station owners should police their stations, I’m wondering whether the market approach might not be the best solution. If customers learn that a given station is plagued by itinerant “gas pumpers,” they’d be well advised to find another station. What strikes me as a bit unfair is the idea of fining person A for the conduct of person B — without, apparently even the conduct of person B being illegal.
I mean, if it is to be a crime to allow panhandling at your business, shouldn’t the panhandling also be illegal?