Austin City Council Tuesday approved ballot language for eight propositions that will go before voters in May. If approved, one of the proposals would allow the adoption of ordinances that ban and impose criminal penalties for "sitting or lying down on a public sidewalk or sleeping outdoors in and near the Downtown area and the area around the University of Texas campus" and "camping in any public area not designated by the Parks and Recreation Department."

The ballot will also ask voters if they want the city to criminalize and create penalties for offenses related to solicitation (panhandling, basically) in specific areas and at specified hours or in an "aggressive" manner.

In 2019, the City Council rescinded a 1996 ban on public camping—a law that had, essentially, criminalized homelessness. The movement to reinstate such a ban coalesced recently around Save Austin Now, a group that gathered 26,000 signatures in favor of its position—enough to require the city to put the question to voters.

In the past two years, the city has initiated a number of housing-focused strategies to address homelessness, according to new Homeless Strategy Officer Dianna Gray, including purchasing hotels for conversion into permanent supportive housing.

The council also approved language for seven other propositions on the ballot for the May 1 special election. They include: requiring the city to participate in binding arbiration with the Austin Firefighters Association if the two parties cannot reach agreements via collective bargaining; creating a director of police oversight; changing the dates of mayoral elections; providing for ranked-choice voting in city elections (if such voting is deemed legal in Texas); changing from a "council-manager" form of city government to a "strong mayor" model; allowing the additiona of a council district; and adopting a voluntary public campaign-finance program.