Thursday, September 16, 2021
Thursday, September 16, 2021

Proposed Texas law could limit overnight RV parking in entire state

By Mike Gast
A bill that would target homeless “campers” in Texas could have unintended yet far-reaching impacts on RVers looking for a quick overnight stop in the Lone Star State.

Texas Senate Bill 987 is working its way through the Texas Legislature in Austin. As written, the bill would essentially prohibit all camping in “public spaces.” A violation would be charged as a Class C misdemeanor. The bill was introduced by Republican Senator Dawn Buckingham of Lakeway, just outside of Austin.

This bill also restricts local governments from taking any actions to prohibit the enforcement of the new law. The bill defines camping as any attempt to temporarily reside in a place with shelter. Shelter is also defined as a tent, tarp, lean-to, sleeping bag, bedroll, blankets, or “any form of shelter” other than the clothes on your back.

The “other forms of shelter” provision could be loosely viewed as any form of recreational vehicle. It could theoretically be used as an enforcement tool to limit or restrict overnight RV parking in “public spaces.” Those could include Walmart parking lots or other business lots that currently allow overnight RV stays. Businesses such as Walmart do operate on their own private property. However, their parking lots are subject to law enforcement jurisdiction when problems occur. Therefore they could be defined as “public spaces.”

Intent of the law is to curtail homeless residents living on the streets

No doubt, the intent of the law is to curtail the growing number of homeless residents living on the streets and parks in Texas. The potential effect on RVers aside, the law is also concerning in that it attempts to address the longstanding and growing homeless problem in that state through the use of fines and possible jail time. It doesn’t provide any additional options for homeless Texans.

During an April 12 hearing on the bill, Senator Paul Bettencourt, chair of the Senate Local Government Committee, criticized Austin’s homeless strategy officer who had testified against the bill.

Austin’s homeless policy has flunked

“This (Austin’s homeless) policy has flunked and failed flat on its face and we’ve got thousands of people at risk in this county and this town as a result, so why are we defending it at all?” Bettencourt said. “The City of Austin has defaulted on any possibility of leadership on this for two years.”

Dianna Grey, the City of Austin’s homeless strategy officer, told lawmakers she’d be happy to help them come up with a bill that is more suitable to the City’s current situation.

“I understand the impulse but thinking that criminalizing unsheltered homelessness will make it go away is simply wishful thinking,” Grey said. “Where are they going to go?”

Austin voters will also be asked in May to decide if they want to reinstate a city order regarding a public camping ban and panhandling. Senate Bill 987 appears to be an attempt to expand a homeless camping ban statewide.

No state or local official in Texas has said Senate Bill 987 would be used to ban RVers from overnight parking where it is currently allowed. However, the bill’s ambiguous language leaves open that possibility. If passed, the new Texas law would go into effect September 1, 2021.

To view the full text of Texas Senate Bill 987, click here.

Another similar measure regarding overnight RV parking

Texas isn’t the only place passing laws to criminalize camping on public property. The Auburn, Washington, City Council passed a new law on April 19 regarding this subject. It imposes up to a $1,000 fine and 90 days in jail for someone convicted of violating its new misdemeanor ordinance. Homeless folks can’t be cited, however, if there are no shelter options available for them.

We’ll keep an eye on things as the bill works its way through the Texas Legislature. We’ll keep you apprised of developments in Texas and all other areas.

Related

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Missy
4 months ago

I think politicians should quit trying to make everything (life) harder. They need to fix the main problem which is homelessness. I know there’s no easy fix but don’t just push the homeless to somewhere else. Politicians, help the people that you are supposed to represent, not just the rich that don’t want to see the homeless.

Bob
4 months ago

850 miles across Texas from El Paso to Orange running West to East almost as far North to South. The Rio Grande Valley communities and their representatives should be working very hard to see that this never happens. All the winter Texans can’t make it in one day pushing and pulling those big rigs.

TomS
4 months ago

Just another “friendly” place trying to kill the golden goose.

Silas Longshot
4 months ago

Having read the bill, it seems the target of this action is the ‘urban campers’ of the homeless types. I did NOT see any prohibition of PARKING overnight aimed at RV’s or truckers who frequently use the same ‘public places’ for their mandatory sleep times. It specifically called out tents, tarps, lean to’s, sleeping in sleeping bags, making fires, digging holes. But RV’s looking to park overnight are already seeing more places deny the privilege because of the slobs in RVs trashing the parking lot and other stuff they should not be doing in a parking lot.

Gordy B
4 months ago
Reply to  Silas Longshot

Unfortunately the way the law reads, it could stop you from sleeping in a rest area as well. There are no exemptions listed making it a bit arbitrary as to it’s application. Texas should reconsider or rewrite this law before passing. It could cause the loss of a lot of tourist trade, just depending on enforcement. Something else to consider if it is enforced against the homeless and not others traveling in a similar manner, it would be discrimination. If it passes as written, I for one would forever check Texas off my list of places to see or visit.

Tom Horn
4 months ago

So the way I see it. There was a bigger problem created with the homeless so the government can create more control for everyone. The more access they can put limits on the more control they will have

Tony
4 months ago

It’s another republican taking action against the poor. No money; he sees no benefit to his pocket. Has no clue how too fix it so let force them too move too another state, let them deal with it.

Silas Longshot
4 months ago

Bill looks to me to be aimed at homeless types who actually “camp out” in parking lots, behind stores, etc, using tarps, tents, lean to, bedrolls, and dig holes, make fires…actual ‘camping’. Nowhere did it mention anything about RV’s PARKING over night. We’re already having enough issues with Walmarts starting to ban RV parking overnight because of slobs and others abusing the privilege.

Gordy B
4 months ago
Reply to  Silas Longshot

It said anything other than the clothing used to protect you from the weather. Technically that includes cars, RV’s, semis and anything you may travel in. Many homeless travel in not so good looking vehicles. It would be discrimination to site the dilapidated ones and let the well kept ones be……….that is a whole new can of worms.

Gregory Giese
4 months ago

Basically this is intended for tent people cuz the area is overrun with them. Has nothing to do with rv’s but Chuck got us to read it. Fake news.

Gordy B
4 months ago
Reply to  Gregory Giese

I would respectfully disagree. See my reply to Silas Longshot.

Texas camper
4 months ago

Please understand, Austin is Democratic, state govlerment which is based in Austin is very conservative and hates Austin. this is just another power grab by republicans to force ,ltheir views on the cities.

Brian Burry
4 months ago

TexasFornia obviously!!!

Michael
4 months ago

Is there an email address for the Texas legislature?

Jim
4 months ago

Boise, Idaho tried this same thing but was struck down by their State Supreme Court since there was no place for the homeless to go and the City didn’t provide enough beds for them to go to.

William Johnson
4 months ago

Is Walmart parking lot a public place? I would think that they are private propery?

sdw
4 months ago

What you’ve failed to realize or mention is that if it restricts local law enforcement from acting on this law. Then only state troopers will be enforcing it. And there’s really not that many of them to really enforce it. And from what I’ve noticed over the years is cops don’t even want to get out of their cars unless dispatch makes them.

OafDawg
4 months ago
Reply to  sdw

Read it again, that’s not what it says. “ restricts local governments from taking any actions to prohibit the enforcement of” means local governments can’t make exceptions to the law.


K.A.B.
4 months ago

How does the bill account for the required rest breaks for over the road truckers as many of the present day sleeper cabs are outfitted similar to some smaller motor homes? I saw no provision for this class of traveler upon an initial reading of the linked bill.

Bill
4 months ago

Criminalizing homelessness. This is not new. Legislators in temperate climates have enacted variations of this to move folks on… out of sight, out of mind. I wonder how many profess to be “Christian”?

chris
4 months ago
Reply to  Bill

It’s so much easier to criminalize activity you don’t like than to find reasonable solutions to it. Like drugs.

STEPHEN P Malochleb
4 months ago

Maybe if Texas stopped housing illegals crossing the border then they could concentrate on their homeless population. Which I am willing to bet many are veterans. Stop giving everything away to foreign countries and take care of our own. Family first then when you have extra, only then help someone else. We give to every country that hates us but loves our money…….

Cere
4 months ago

Aren’t places like Walmart parking lots private property? I would think that as such, Walmart can decide if it will allow RVs to park there overnight. FWIW, in our town, there is a large homeless camp in the woods right behind the Walmart. Things are getting very tough for many people in this country.

Ray
4 months ago

Austin has been a democratic mainstay for decades in Texas. Is it any wonder they have these problems more so than most? Now we have unbridled immigration and drug running, another wonderful idea from the same party just to add to the misery. Other cities in Texas are now being Austinized at a rapid pace. I can only hope these provisions are altered to exclude RVs maintained as they should be and then passed. Work camps to keep these indigents and immigrants off the street, occupied and away from drugs would help.

Bill
4 months ago
Reply to  Ray

Nonsense.

Kamwick
4 months ago
Reply to  Ray

Must be nice to have such a simple view of life.

Mark O.
4 months ago

We went to Texas back when my father was stationed in Clovis NM in 1968 and visited quite a few places, Six Flags was OK. I visited San Antonio when I was in AF basic training back in 1976 and wasn’t impressed at all. As far as I can see there’s no reason I’d ever go back based on crap like this happening. I do agree with the comments on all the money passed out by the government, most people collecting this have ZERO incentive to work. Over my entire working life I only took unemployment twice and hated it both times. Didn’t collect for more than 60 days either time and the first time was after I left the Air Force and was waiting for a security clearance to clear so it wasn’t like I didn’t find work. There’s no lack of jobs out there now.

Firefly
4 months ago

Gotta hand it to Texas, it takes huevos to make it a crime to be poor. Of course once they figure out that it might accidentally impact wealthier folks, they’ll be sure to fix that part. So don’t worry RVers.

Kamwick
4 months ago
Reply to  Firefly

Bingo.

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