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Paleteros, Eloteros, and Other Street Vendors Safe From Crackdown — For Now

Good news: The government isn't coming for your paleteros and eloteros.

Earlier this month, Phoenix New Times reported that street vendors who sell ice pops, ice cream treats, and Mexican-style corn could potentially be affected by House Bill 2371. Though intended to loosen regulations for food trucks, the bill also included language allowing cities and towns to ban so-called "mobile food units" from residential areas.

At the time, it wasn't clear whether the bill definitely would apply to vendors with hand-pushed or bicycle-powered carts as well as food trucks. And Representative Kevin Payne, the bill's sponsor, never got back to us about that.

A word of advice to politicians: Don't mess with the eloteros. Readers were livid about the possibility that we might see a crackdown on these wildly popular vendors. A sampling of comments from our Facebook page:

"Absolutely bullshit. You ain't living til you can walk out your house and grab corn and a mango. Go screw with someone else like panhandling bums."

"Only in America does a president win on platform of deregulation and then the state passes regulation on the smallest buisness. Just say it, we only want white-owned business."

"Did they wake up one morning and think 'gee, what’s the meanest thing I can do today?'"

"Bullshit that's the only good thing about this hot ass place."

Yesterday, a House conference committee approved an amendment to the bill that makes it explicitly clear that the legislation doesn't apply to eloteros and paleteros.

The key distinction is the definition of the word "vehicle." The new-and-improved version of the bill points to Arizona's transportation statute, which reads as follows (emphasis ours):

"Vehicle" means a device in, on or by which a person or property is or may be transported or drawn on a public highway, excluding devices moved by human power or used exclusively on stationary rails or tracks.

The amendment was introduced by Representative Cesar Chavez, a Democrat from west Phoenix, after Living United For Change in Arizona (LUCHA) raised concerns.

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Chavez previously told New Times that there's currently nothing in state law that stops cities and towns from deciding that they don't want eloteros and paleteros to operate in residential areas. In future, he plans to introduce legislation that would prevent them from doing so. 

"I stand very firmly with paletoros — I grew up on that stuff," he said. "I'm in process of drafting a bill that would permit paleteros and eloteros to operate without any intrusion, except for complying with the law, health codes, and all of that."

So far, he's not aware of any communities that have banned paleteros and eloteros, he acknowledged.

Chavez couldn't immediately be reached for comment on his amendment to HB 2371.

The updated bill will still require final approval from the House and Senate before it lands on Governor Doug Ducey's desk. 

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