The Oregon Legislature passed a bill Wednesday allowing the state’s massive homeless population to camp in any public space. Next stop for the bill is the desk of Governor Kate Brown.
The measure mandates that any local law must be deemed "reasonable," if it regulates "sitting, lying, sleeping or keeping warm and dry outdoors on public property."
Under the legislation, a homeless person charged with violating a ban on camping or loitering would have an affirmative defense against any law deemed not objectively reasonable, allowing them to sue to challenge the objective reasonableness of the law, and be awarded attorney fees if the plaintiff prevails.
The Marion County Board of Commissioners opposed the bill and said the measure "would limit local control of the homeless crisis facing Oregon" and that it would "place residents in our communities at risk by restricting local government's power to limit homeless camps."
The Oregon Law Center cited a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that homeless people cannot be punished for sleeping outside on public property in the absence of adequate alternatives, or unless the law imposes "reasonable time, place and manner" restrictions on regulated activities in public space.
If Governor Brown signs the bill, it will go into effect on July 1, 2023.