A bill that would establish a Texas-wide ban on public camping was considered by the Texas State Senate Local Government Committee on Monday.
Filed by Texas Senator Dawn Buckingham, the legislation would establish a statewide public camping ban and create a Class C misdemeanor for violators. Buckingham described the bill as the “first step in addressing the public health and safety calamity created by agenda driven city councils.”
The state governor has expressed his support for the Senate Bill 987, as well as the identical proposal in the Texas House. “We cannot sit idly by and allow Texas families and businesses to suffer the economic and public health consequences that these encampments bring into our cities,” Gov. Greg Abbott said in a statement. “These pieces of legislation provide a uniform policy for the entire state that will hold cities accountable to develop meaningful and compassionate long-term solutions to support those experiencing homelessness.”
Austin Mayor Steve Adler compared the proposal to Proposition B that will be voted on in upcoming local elections. “This bill, like Proposition B, offers no help and no solution,” Adler said in a statement. “We can and must do better to get people out of tents, not merely to move their tents out of sight. SB987 is not the answer.” He emphasized that previous bans had been ineffective and the need to shift focus to “getting people into housing, getting them services, getting them off our streets, not doing something that does nothing more than add a criminal penalty.”
On Monday, Austin City Council Member Gregorio Casar gave testimony against the House version of the bill.
“The bills to criminalize poverty and homeless, or to punish cities that re-imagine our police budgets target Austin and seek to punish local democracy,” stated Casar. “Those who these bills really target and harm aren’t city governments. These bills harm Texans.”
While recognizing the need to address the crisis of homelessness in the city, he called for investment in housing services and necessary healthcare.