TACO The Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO) sponsored several bills to protect park operator interests during the 2021 legislative session. The Texas legislature only meets once every two years, January 2023 being the next session, according to a press release.

But even though TACO succeeded in shepherding every bill through its corresponding legislative committee, the dysfunction between Republicans and Democrats prevented the bills from being considered in final floor votes, said Brian Schaeffer, TACO’s executive vice president and CEO.

“We’ll need to try again next year,” said Schaeffer, who held a legislative affairs webinar on Oct. 11 in which he not only outlined TACO’s latest legislative work but the association’s history of legislative accomplishments and its efforts to complete a major update to the TACO Legal Handbook, which will be released late this year.

“We’ve been very busy on the legislative front,” Schaeffer told the 40 webinar attendees, who included both prospective and existing TACO members.

Brian Schaeffer

For example, during the 2021 session, TACO sponsored legislation to update state regulations that prevent water utilities from billing private parks for service fees for each site, rather than actual usage. Additional legislation was designed to prevent utilities from charging parks for water development fees, such as those applied to new residential developments. TACO also sponsored a separate bill to protect park operators from claims involving the “inherent risks” in camping.

In addition, TACO is working with the powerful Texas Municipal League to see if it would support or at least not oppose legislation requiring Texas to adopt the NFPA 1194 standard as the state standard for campgrounds, RV parks and resorts. The idea, Schaeffer said, would be to establish statewide guidelines for the construction of private parks. Right now, Texas has no such guidelines resulting in cities and counties often lumping RV parks in with mobile home parks or residential developments.

TACO is also looking for ways to impose an annual cap on property tax increases in Texas, like California’s Proposition 13, which has limited annual property tax increases in the Golden State since 1978.

Additionally, TACO is trying to counter efforts by the office of the Texas Comptroller, which has been encouraging Texas counties to assess their commercial property tax rates based on the business’s estimated annual revenue rather than on the value of their real estate, as is common practice. The extraordinary move by the Texas Comptroller has resulted in some Texas park operators facing triple-digit increases in their property tax rates.

While Texas park operators face a wide range of financial threats by utilities as well as state and local governments, Schaeffer said TACO has a long history of legislative achievements to protect park operators’ bottom line. These include bills involving the following topics:

— A Criminal Trespass and Theft of Service Law

— A Water Billing Law. Approved more than a decade ago, the law prevents utilities from charging parks a “per site” fee for water service.

— An Electricity Sales Tax Refund Law: This law enables parks to obtain refunds on state sales taxes assessed on electricity sales made to RVers who camp monthly.

Schaeffer said TACO also successfully removed the words “RV” and “campground” from Texas Property Code 94, which many consider to be the “mobile home owners’ bill of rights.” Removing RV parks and campgrounds from the code helps avoid confusion regarding the appropriate and legally authorized processes for removing RVers or park guests who haven’t paid their fees or who have otherwise violated their agreements with the park.

Schaeffer said TACO members will soon have access to the latest edition of the TACO Legal Handbook, which highlights the “best practices” park operators can follow from legal and regulatory standpoints.

“In this day and age, we live in a very litigious society. So we’re hoping the latest edition of the TACO Legal Handbook will help keep park owners on a good path,” Schaeffer said.

The book includes new sections regarding emergency preparedness and legal and regulatory best practices, based on TACO’s decades of experience helping park operators address these topics. The book also contains 27 legal forms, including TACO’s latest recommended applications for monthly sites as well as site service agreements and notice required to initiate eviction proceedings, when needed.

The TACO Legal Handbook is expected to be released by year-end. It will be available to members through the password-protected side of https://tacomembers.com/.