AUSTIN — As lawlessness continues to unravel on the streets of Texas’ capital city, Democrat state representatives are stalling an effort to restore public safety in Austin and cities across the state.

On Monday, after nearly two years of public harm from a local government decision, the Texas House was set to consider a Republican-proposed law—House Bill 1925—to prevent vagrancy camping in public places across all of Texas.

“This is a humanitarian issue, plain and simple,” said the bill’s author, State Rep. Giovanni Capriglione. “The intentions of this bill are to spur local governments to do more to help the population of people experiencing homelessness. Letting them camp under highways is not the answer.”

However, during debate in the House chamber, Democrat State Rep. Joe Deshotel (Beaumont) used a parliamentary tactic—a point of order—to try to kill the bill. Deshotel’s plan caused Capriglione to have to send the bill back to committee, dragging the effort backward in the legislative process.

Capriglione’s proposed law was spurred by seeing a public disaster unfold in Austin over the past two years. In 2019, the Democrat-run Austin City Council legalized unrestrained homeless camping in nearly all public spaces (except city hall, notably), a decision which sparked a swarm of new tent cities along sidewalks and neighborhoods, a drastic increase in the city’s homeless population, a more dangerous public environment, and a wildfire of public backlash (including warnings from numerous law enforcement officials and a citizen-led petition with more than 126,000 signatures).

Violent crime subsequently rose by double digits, with homicides up 64 percent year over year in 2020 and continuing to rise to record numbers this year.

Countless citizens have also testified and shared their stories of experiencing assaults, thefts, vandalism, and other aggravated crimes at the hands of criminal transients who are allowed to live and roam among their apartments, businesses, schools, and neighborhoods.

Even Democrat Mayor Steve Adler recently admitted what he and the council had done wasn’t working, though he is still opposed to changing their 2019 decision.

“The [Austin City Council’s] repeal of this longstanding ordinance has led to several high-profile confrontations between homeless and not homeless individuals, and the city has experienced an alarming increase in violent crime,” said Capriglione.

Even apart from the state Legislature’s potential statewide public camping law, Austinites have already organized and taken action locally. On May 1, citizens will vote on whether to restore the city’s original vagrancy camping rules or continue allowing the lawless tent city environment.

“Every day, Austinites are suffering from the free-for-all associated with the City’s deregulation of all public camping and aggressive panhandling,” wrote citizen group Save Austin Now on their website. “It’s not helping the homeless, and it’s not helping Austin.”

“In January 2019, the City of Austin estimated there were 2,500 homeless people in the city proper. Today we estimate that number to be at or above 5,000 and they’re coming from all over the country because of the lawlessness that the City of Austin has embraced,” wrote SAN co-founder Matt Mackowiak last week.

The State Legislature is running out of time in their legislative session, with only 34 days left. Concerned citizens may contact their state representatives.

Jacob Asmussen

Jacob Asmussen is a Senior Journalist for Texas Scorecard. He attended the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor and in 2017 earned a double major in public relations and piano performance.