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Statewide homeless camping bill heads to Gov. Abbott's desk

On Friday, the Texas House approved the bill with Senate amendments.

AUSTIN, Texas — On Friday, the Texas House approved House Bill 1925, a statewide ban on public camping of homeless individuals, with Senate amendments.

The Senate had previously passed the bill on May 20 by a vote of 28-3 with some changes, sending it back to the House. Prior to that, in the House, it was approved by a vote of 85-56. Although the legislation had sponsors from both parties, much of the opposition came from Democrats.

As it was written, the bill prohibits people from camping in a public place unless authorized. Authorized camping includes camping for recreational purposes or if the property has been approved for sheltering people experiencing homelessness. 

People who would violate the law can be ticketed with a fine of up to $500, but only after the officer gives the person the option to leave, tells them where camping is allowed and educates them on resources available to help the homeless. The original bill passed by the House also allowed officers enforcing the law to arrest violators, but the Senate removed that provision. Now, someone can only be arrested if they are presenting a public safety threat or breaking a law.

If the person is arrested, HB 1925 requires the officer to either allow the person to take their personal property or store it until the person can get it. 

The Senate bill was amended from the House version to include a ban on cities using public parkland for temporary camps, a move the Austin City Council has discussed as it looks at possible designated campsites. The idea of using parklands was met with opposition from Councilmember Mackenzie Kelly, who said there are people in her district who are not able to enjoy green spaces because of homeless encampments.

In Austin, a ban on public camping has already been reinstated after Proposition B passed the May 1 ballot.

The bill is now headed to Gov. Greg Abbott's desk. If he signs it, it's set to take effect on Sept. 1.

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