MEDFORD, Ore. – The Oregon House passed a bill this week allowing cities to regulate when and where people can sleep on public property. The caveat, those rules must be objectively reasonable.
The proposed legislation protects communities from anti-camping policies. But it also gives local governments guidance on what they can and cannot allow when it comes to sleeping on the streets. The City of Medford just passed a new law this month said it’s not concerned that this will change anything it’s doing.
House Bill 3115 passed 36-22 Thursday. Ashland State Representative Pam Marsh sponsored the legislation.
“We need to give cities some tools to deal with a very exceptional problem of homelessness right now,” said Rep. Marsh.
The goal of the bill is to give guidelines to both local governments, as well as people experiencing homelessness.
“We understand that it may not be appropriate for people to camp for certain locations at certain times of the year or during certain hours within your city,” said Rep. Marsh.
City of Medford Deputy Attorney, Eric Mitton, was a part of the League of Oregon Cities workgroup that brainstormed the bill’s language.
“The city can’t have a citywide prohibition on sleeping outside, but it can implement reasonable time, place, manner regulations,” said Mitton.
The City of Medford submitted written testimony supporting the proposed legislation.
Earlier this month, Medford’s city council approved a controversial camping ordinance that prohibits pitching tents year-round and would not allow camping along the greenway during fire season.
“It’s the city’s position that this ordinance is compliant with the bill,” said Mitton, “The cities legal staff was working on the ordinance the same time that the League of Oregon’s law center was working on house bill 3115”.
But while Mitton is confident HB 3115 supports Medford’s camping ordinance it could be up for interpretation.
“The question for a community like Medford that has really debated and thought and engaged on this subject is whether or not the ordinance meets that reasonable standard,” said Mitton.
The Oregon Senate will have its first reading on House Bill 3115 next week.