Nine members of the Seattle Human Rights Commission, a city board that advises lawmakers on policy matters, overwhelmingly voted to oppose an ordinance being pushed by City Council Member Tim Burgess that would further penalize aggressive solicitation. Four members of the commission either abstained or weren't at tonight's meeting; only one person voted to support the ordinance.

"I have not been convinced that there is a need for a new ordinance when there is one on the books that could be used more effectively to address the problem," says Chris Stearns, a commissioner and lawyer who represents Native American tribes.

The bill from Burgess, the most conservative member on the city council and a former police officer, would allow cops to issue $50 citations for aggressive solicitation without a complaint; the city already has a criminal aggressive panhandling ordinance on the books.

This is a stunning rejection of a bill that Burgess has amended—and sought to amend further—to remain within the bounds of the law and good policy. But commissioners, in the course of their debate tonight, found that the crux of the bill was redundant, ineffective, and could have negative ramifications.

"I understand that some people may feel uncomfortable downtown. That is why there are concerns about aggressive solicitation and we don’t say that is not a real issue," says Roslyn Solomon, the commission chair. "The questions is how best to approach that and deal with that." She notes that the commission widely supports other provisions of a plan to address disorder downtown, such as more police foot patrols, more police overall, and augmenting social services.

But Solomon, an attorney and consultant, says the bill creates insurmountable problems with due process. A ticket requires a lower burden of proof than the existing criminal law, she says, and people who don’t pay the ticket or miss a court date—a likely scenario for panhandlers—would end up with a criminal conviction and then could be committed into treatment. She says the law would "criminalize a civil infraction" and that is how the bill "ends up having teeth in effect."

"We don’t think that this is the right way to do it, by creating due process concerns, criminalizing people who don’t have representation of council, and ordering people against their will into services," says Solomon.

The city council gets the final word. The commission will issue a report to the city council by next Tuesday, one day before the council's Public Safety and Education Committee votes on the bill. Further, the commissioners are delegated to explain, one-on-one to each council member, the inherent human-rights flaws in the bill. Says Solomon: "I’d like the city council not to vote on the ordinance and look into taking other steps."