Borough Introduces Series of Codes Amending Archaic Free Speech Laws
Borough Council introduced ordinances last Tuesday that, if passed, would update some antiquated laws concerning issues of free speech and self-expression.
The first was an ordinance involving the distribution of handbills and leaflets announcing various restrictions on such distribution.
For example, the current leaflet and handbill law bars commercial handbills, or "any printed or written matter or otherwise reproduced original or copies of any matter or literature." The introduced code would effectively update that provision, allowing them to be distributed in the same manner as non-commercial leaflets.
Council also visited a public meetings ordinance that would encourage the free expression of ideas of individuals and organizations ‹ so long as it does not obstruct vehicular or pedestrian traffic. If a group larger than 25 individuals aims to conduct a public meeting, a permit needs to be obtained from the municipality.
In regulating the place and time of street parades, minor changes were introduced to amend the current code in line with recent state and federal court decisions. Parades held in parks are slated to be omitted from the current code.
Finally, Council addressed current mandates regulating house-to-house solicitation by introducing an ordinance that would elevate a commercial solicitor's application fee from $25 to $100. Commercial solicitors must file with the police chief, providing personal information for background check purposes.
The proposed code also calls for solicitation hours to fall between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. for both commercial solicitors as well as not-for-profit groups canvassing for a particular cause. Borough Councilman Andrew Koontz said from his experiences going door-to-door as a politician, canvassers are often out until 8 p.m. ‹ the time that polls close in New Jersey.
All the introduced ordinances will be aired at a public hearing set for September 13.