Texas park operators heard a mix of good and bad legislative news last week during the annual Spring Meeting and Tradeshow of the Texas Association of Campground Owners (TACO).

The good news involved the passage of legislation that was designed to reduce park operators’ water rates and to reduce their liability for certain types of insurance claims.

Texas lawmakers passed legislation in 2023 that should reduce or at least keep water rates in check by preventing cities and water districts from assessing fees on each RV site as if it were a house. Water rates were previously calculated on a per-site basis, which had the effect of forcing RV parks to pay for more water than they could ever actually use. The new water rate structure was made possible by HB 1612, sponsored by Rep. J.M. Lozano, R-Kingsville, and its Senate companion bill, SB 594, sponsored by Senator Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo.

“The impact of this legislation on a park’s water bills will vary, depending on the formula their local water agency has been using. But the savings could range from a few hundred to several thousand dollars per month,” said Brian Schaeffer, TACO’s executive director/CEO, who was joined by Ron Hinkle, TACO’s lobbyist, TACO President/Legislative Advocate Randall Dally, and TACO Assistant Executive Director Michael Moore in making the government affairs presentation.

In other good news, TACO members learned that HB 2636, sponsored by Andrew Murr, R-Kerrville, would protect campground and RV park operators from liability involving certain types of injuries that take place at a park due to guest negligence.

“It gives you a first level of defense against frivolous lawsuits,” Schaeffer said.

The bad news involved TACO’s efforts to reduce commercial property tax rates. TACO sponsored two bills that would have capped annual property tax increases at 5% and eliminated the newly minted efforts of appraisal districts to tax properties based on the ‘income method’ rather than the ‘cost to replace’ method. Unfortunately, the bills never garnered enough support to make it to a final vote, Schaeffer said.

TACO has been trying to address the problem of rapidly escalating property tax rates, which have increased property taxes for Texas RV park owners by 100% to 400% and, in some cases, by more than 500% in recent years.

The other bad news involved TACO’s effort to establish a statewide building code standard for RV parks, modeled after NFPA 1194. Schaeffer said many jurisdictions in Texas do not want RV parks and are enacting codes that will make it too costly for developers to build or expand parks in these communities. A statewide building code modeled after NFPA 1194 would enable park operators and developers to build new parks and expand existing ones in response to rising consumer demand while adhering to building and safety codes for RV parks that are considered the best practices in the industry.

Despite these setbacks, Schaeffer said TACO is optimistic that it will have greater success on the taxation and building code fronts when the next state legislative session begins in 2025. TACO’s legislative report last week summarized the outcome of TACO’s various legislative efforts through the end of last year’s legislative session, which concluded several weeks after TACO’s 2023 Spring Meeting.

TACO’s next Spring Meeting and Tradeshow is scheduled for April 29-30, 2025, at the Lone Star Convention & Expo Center in Conroe, Texas.