An attempt to license Wal-Mart and other large retailers that allow overnight RV parking failed, at least for now, in the Montana legislature.
A bill introduced by Rep. Penny Morgan, R-Billings, that would have required licensing and assessed fees against retailers, was tabled in committee after a hearing in late January.
“The committee didn’t understand the bill,” Morgan said. “I wasn’t trying to stop camping in Wal-Mart, but if Wal-Mart wants to be in the campground business, they should have to do all the things a campground has to do.”
The bill was opposed vigorously by the Escapees RV Club, Livingston, Tex., which generated more than 500 e-mail messages against the bill, Morgan said.
“We hate to see Wal-Mart taxed when all they are doing is being hospitable and offering a safety net to RVers,” Escapees CEO Cathie Carr told Woodall’s Campground Management, sister publication of RVBUSINESS.COM. “It is a lifestyle issue and is of the utmost concern.”
The practice by Wal-Mart and other retailers of allowing RVs to park free in their parking lots overnight has been highly controversial. Several years ago, Escapees organized a boycott against Illinois campgrounds that sought to have the state require Wal-Mart to have health permits.
Wal-Mart’s corporate policy is to leave the decision whether to allow RV parking up to the local manager, who is instructed to follow local laws and regulations.
“Commercial enterprise should be built on personal merit, not legal restraints that require an individual to use a particular service,” Carr wrote in a letter to Morgan.
“Overnight stays in private parking lots are used when circumstances make them the most sensible solution,” she added.
Meanwile, Morgan said her intent was not to stop Wal-Mart from allowing RVers to park overnight.
“These people perceive it as an anti-RV bill,” said Morgan, who might attempt to revive the bill. “I wanted to even the playing field for the small business person who owns a campground.”