AUSTIN — After two years of lawlessness on the streets of Texas’ capital city, state lawmakers have taken action to restore public safety in Austin and cities across Texas.

On Wednesday, the Texas House of Representatives approved House Bill 1925, which prevents vagrancy camping in public places across all of Texas. Violating the law would be a Class C misdemeanor.

The proposed law was supposed to be considered last week, but Democrat lawmakers used a parliamentary maneuver to stall the effort. The bill finally passed on Wednesday in a mostly party-line vote—with 88 Republicans voting for and 56 Democrats voting against—though a handful of Democrats did join in supporting the public safety bill.

“This is a humanitarian issue, plain and simple,” said the bill’s author, State Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, last week. “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.”

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 In 2019, the Democrat-run Austin City Council repealed the city’s longstanding public camping rules, allowing unrestrained homeless squatting in nearly all public spaces (except city hall, notably).

The decision sparked a swarm of new tent cities along sidewalks and neighborhoods, a drastic increase in the city’s homeless population, a double-digit surge in violent crime, and a wildfire of community backlash (including warnings from numerous law enforcement officials and a citizen-led petition with more than 126,000 signatures).

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

“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.”

However, in an election last week, Austinites voted overwhelmingly to restore the city’s original public camping law, overriding the Democrat council’s decision. Now, with the Texas House’s action, the same protections are closer to extending across the whole state.

The proposed law will now head across the Capitol to the Senate. If approved there, it will end up on the governor’s desk to be signed into law.

The State Legislature only has 24 days left in their legislative session. 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.

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