House And Senate Pass Bill To Regulate Homeless Encampments On Public Property (Update 4.22.22)

****Update 4/22/22 – Speaker Cameron Sexton and Lt. Gov. Randy McNally have both signed the legislation. The bill will now head to Governor Lee for signing, veto, or to be allowed to pass into law without his signature.

Image Credit: Bart Everson / CC

The Tennessee Conservative [By Jason Vaughn] –

Legislation that would make camping on Tennessee public property a misdemeanor offense has passed both the House and the Senate. 

House Bill 978, sponsored by Representative Ryan Williams (R-Cookeville-District42), states that any person who camps on the shoulder, berm, or right-of-way of a state or interstate highway or under a bridge or overpass, or within an underpass, of a state or interstate highway could be charged with a misdemeanor crime and a $50 fine or required community service of at least 20 hours.

The bill would also update the Equal Access to Property Act of 2012 to include a public property provision. While the act was previously altered in 2020 to make it a felony offense to camp on state-owned property, the updated wording would make that offense relevant for “public property.” 

The bill passed the House with 57 ayes and 28 noes, while 6 representatives were present but chose not to vote.

7 Republican representatives voted against the bill: David Byrd (R-Waynesboro-District 71), Scotty Campbell (R-Mountain City-District 3), Dale Carr (R-Sevierville-District 12), Bud Hulsey (R-Kingsport-District 2), Susan Lynn (R-Mount Juliet-District 57), Jerry Sexton (R-Bean Station-District 35), and Todd Warner (R-Chapel Hill-District 92).

Republican representatives Rick Eldridge (R-Morristown-District 10), Justin Lafferty (R-Knoxville-District 89), Eddie Mannis (R-Knoxville-District 18), Brandon Ogles (R-Franklin-District 61), and Mike Sparks (R-Smyrna-District 49) were present for the meeting but did not vote.

*** Click Here to Support Conservative Journalism in Tennessee. We can’t cover stories like this without your support!***

The companion Senate Bill 1610 was sponsored by Senator Paul Bailey (R-Sparta-District 15). On April 13, the Senate voted to substitute HB978, which was passed with a 22-10 vote.

Of the ten votes against the bill, four of those came from Republican senators: Mark Pody (R-Lebanon-District 17), Bill Powers (R-Clarksville-District 22), Art Swann (R-Maryville-District 2), and Page Walley (R-Bolivar-District 26).


According to Bailey, the legislation does not force local law enforcement to act on those charges, but it gives them the power to do so if desired.

“This would be up to local authorities as to whether they want to enforce the law,” Bailey said. “This is not mandatory, but just gives them the ability to do so.”

Critics of the bill say it criminalizes homelessness.

Representative Antonio Parkinson (D-Memphis-District 98) says he was homeless several times when he was a child and that a more “compassionate” way of dealing with the issue would be more beneficial.

“Thank God this law wasn’t in place where I was living,” Parkinson said. “Those are individual stories out there, individual situations, and to criminalize individuals who are in those situations is just a terrible, terrible idea. It’s not representative of the values of our state, the values of our people here in Tennessee.”

“I don’t have the answer for homelessness,” Bailey stated. “Those that oppose this legislation, they don’t have all the answers for homelessness. Those that support this legislation, they don’t have all of the answers for homelessness.”

If Governor Lee signs the bill, it would go into effect on July 1, 2022.

About the Author: Jason Vaughn, Media Coordinator for The Tennessee Conservative  ~ Jason previously worked for a legacy publishing company based in Crossville, TN in a variety of roles through his career.  Most recently, he served as Deputy Director for their flagship publication. Prior, he was a freelance journalist writing articles that appeared in the Herald Citizen, the Crossville Chronicle and The Oracle among others.  He graduated from Tennessee Technological University with a Bachelor’s in English-Journalism, with minors in Broadcast Journalism and History.  Contact Jason at

One thought on “House And Senate Pass Bill To Regulate Homeless Encampments On Public Property (Update 4.22.22)

  • September 15, 2022 at 6:13 pm

    I oppose the bill criminalizing homelessness
    Create more shelters ,?working with those in need. Most of those precious human beings don’t wish to be there!
    Look at rent skyrocketing, no affordable housing , no programs counseling people out of desperate situations
    Need a coalition of churches to work together!
    Not politicians criminalizing but not addressing problem “ For The People”!!!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *