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Gov. Abbott says if Austin doesn't reinstate homeless camping ban, Texas will

Local group Save Austin Now is spearheading a second attempt to get an item on the May ballot that would reinstate the ban.

AUSTIN, Texas — A day after local group Save Austin Now reportedly secured enough signatures to potentially put an item on the May ballot to reinstate the homeless camping ban, Gov. Greg Abbott said if Austin doesn't elect to do so, Texas will.

"If Austin doesn't reinstate the ban on homeless camping the state will do it for them," the governor tweeted. "Contrary to what Austin leaders think no one has a right to urinate & defecate wherever they want. Homelessness promoted by Austin has also endangered public safety."

In June 2019, the Austin City Council ruled that citing people for sleeping or camping in certain public areas was unjust. After heavy criticism, the council voted to make several revisions a few months later in October.

Now, groups like Save Austin Now now say the lax ordinances have led to threats to public health and safety.

On Tuesday, Save Austin Now announced it has collected more than 30,000 signatures to get the ban's reinstatement on the ballot. Only 20,000 are required by law. 

Previously, the City Clerk's Office ruled the group's attempts in August 2020 were insufficient due to errors such as duplicate signatures. Save Austin Now eventually filed suit over the thrown-out signatures.

The clerk's office, which is now to begin the validation process of the latest signatures, has until Feb. 12 to approve language for the May ballots. 

Save Austin Now was co-founded by Travis County GOP chairman Matt Mackowiak and Cleo Petricek, founder of Project S.A.F.E. and a local Democratic activist. Other members include Austin Police Association president Ken Casaday, SafeHorns president Joell McNew and former Austin City Council member Ora Houston (District 1).

For more information on the City of Austin's camping ordinances, click here.

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