Private RV park operators in Texas are facing a variety of new threats to their business operations this year, prompting the Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO) to “supplement its proactive legislative efforts with reactive legal services.”
“TACO has backed several pieces of legislation in recent years that secure park operator interests. But these laws — involving everything from school start dates and utility billing practices to eviction and ejection procedures — mean nothing if city and county officials fail to understand and enforce them,” said Brian Schaeffer, TACO’s executive director and CEO, in a press release.
TACO’s legislative consultant, Ron Hinkle, regularly attends meetings of city and state government and law enforcement associations to bring their members up to speed on the latest legislation involving private parks.
But this year TACO took the additional step of engaging Austin attorney Bill Cobb of Cobb & Counsel to ensure TACO members benefit from this legislation. TACO anticipates that Cobb will both correspond and personally communicate with city or county officials that appear to be taking actions contrary to the law. While litigation is never a preferred course of action, Cobb will represent TACO members that must resort to the judicial system for redress.
“Sometimes people listen to lawyers more than non-lawyers when it comes to explaining the law,” said Cobb, who previously served the Texas as the deputy attorney general for civil litigation. “My goal is to be a resource — to go wherever TACO needs me, and to parachute in as necessary.”
Hinkle noted that legal victories often face subsequent political or legal attacks.
He remarked, for example, that TACO had worked with its partners in the tourism industry and school officials several years ago to set the statewide school-start date as the fourth Monday in August.
“This was a compromise between the education community and the tourism industry,” Hinkle said, noting that early school-start dates were eating into the summer travel season.
Despite the compromise, Texas legislators are now considering five different bills to change the school-start dates to give local superintendents more flexibility. But that flexibility comes at a high cost for the camping and tourism industries.
“We only asked for one day to be certain,” Hinkle said, adding that the Texas camping and tourism industry loses $800 million a week for each week that the school start date is moved earlier into August. “It’s incumbent on us to tell that story to legislators,” he said.
TACO is also fighting to ensure that Texas legislators continue to provide $60 million in annual funding to market the Lone Star State both domestically and internationally, Hinkle said. “You have a lot of small communities that leverage their marketing dollars for advertising, tourism websites and travel guides, based on the marketing that’s done by the state,” he said.
TACO is also working to pass legislation that would provide consistent and up-to-date rules governing the construction of RV parks in Texas. The Texas Recreational Vehicle Park and Construction Act would ensure that there are consistent building standards for RV parks in Texas moving forward, Hinkle said.