Broward may outlaw bath salts, fake pot, aggressive panhandling

Broward County may join the legal crusades against trendy synthetic drugs and aggressive panhandlers.

At their last meeting before a two-month summer recess, Broward commissioners Tuesday asked their attorney to draft laws on both hot issues, to be voted on later this year.

The laws, if passed, would apply countywide except in cities that have conflicting rules on the books, the county attorney’s office said.

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Since the Miami “zombie” attack in which Rudy Eugene attacked a homeless man, eating part of his face, the use of bath salts as a mind-altering drug has drawn wide public attention. Police are looking into whether Eugene, whom they shot and killed, was under the influence of bath salts before the attack.

Disturbing accounts of people smoking herbal incense as a synthetic version of marijuana also are prompting action to outlaw sales of that substance.

Broward commissioners appeared less enthusiastic, though, over a proposal to outlaw aggressive panhandling, suggested by Commissioner Chip LaMarca. The city of Fort Lauderdale passed an anti-begging law recently, and LaMarca said he’d like to see Broward follow suit.

Visitors shouldn’t be verbally accosted by panhandlers, he said.

But his colleagues voiced numerous concerns, including Mayor John Rodstrom’s repeated worries that the county’s jails would fill to overflowing if the law is passed.

Sheriff Al Lamberti said last week that the jails are at 92 percent capacity, and he’d have to reopen the county stockade if the population passes its maximum.

Commissioner Sue Gunzburger said she’s never had a problem once she says no to people selling items from the street corners and medians.

“I realize it’s a problem for some,” she said, “but we also have to protect their First Amendment rights.”

Commissioners also on Tuesday put some bite into several new laws passed recently, enacting fines of $250 per violation for the first offense, and $500 for subsequent violations.

Here are the laws the fines apply to: a new tow truck ordinance, which attempts to infuse more customer friendliness into operations; a law banning the sale of smoking pipes and devices to minors; a law making it illegal for junk dealers and scrap metal processors to pay cash or to buy restricted items; and a law requiring gas stations to post a phone number or provide an intercom system so disabled drivers can call inside for help pumping gas.