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Texas Legislature Would Preempt Local Law to Ban Homeless Encampments

The state of Texas and the city of Austin are moving in opposite directions on how best to respond to the needs of people experiencing homelessness.
April 29, 2021, 10am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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Homeless Encampment
Roschetzky Photography

Juan Pablo Garnham reports: "The Texas Legislature is considering bills that would ban homeless encampments statewide, almost two years after the city of Austin decided to lift a similar local ban — a move that critics say triggered the proliferation of tent cities throughout Austin."

Garnham notes that the legislation is the latest attempt at state preemption on issues of public safety—lawmakers are also currently attempting to prevent local governments from cutting budget funding for police departments. Planetizen readers will also recall that the state also acted to preempt local red light camera programs.

Austin lifted its ban on public encampments in July 2019, according to Garnham. The City Council justified the decision at the time on the grounds that enforcing camping bans criminalized homelessness and worsened the cycles of poverty. "The proposed bills — HB 1925 and its companion, Senate Bill 987 — would make camping in an unapproved public place a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $500," according to Garnham.

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