936-327-8873

Escapees Advocacy Timeline

We believe that no one should have to choose between their freedom to travel and their constitutional rights. We will never give up our efforts to ensure that the government, in an earnest attempt to protect us, doesn’t strip away the very liberties that made us a free nation.

Escapees Lead the Way

Monitoring legislation, defeating detrimental laws, and educating city, county, state and federal officials about the amazing community of full-time RVers is a long-term commitment. It’s a commitment that Escapees has fulfilled for the past 40 years.

The issues are complex and sometimes controversial, so each one requires careful scrutiny and deliberate well-though-out action.

Escapees RV Club remains politically neutral and does not endorse one party over another. When we take an advocacy position, it will always be with a clear conscience and the intent of goodwill. We realize that is a hard line to walk in politics, but it is our pledge.

In the end, it is all about defending, protecting and securing legislation that promotes RVers’ civil liberties, and preserving our right to travel and live the RV lifestyle unencumbered by discriminatory laws. We cannot fight every fight; and, we will not win every time we chose to fight. However, we will vigorously defend RVers’ rights, where and when we can.

Defending Full-Time RVers’ Right to Vote

Protecting full-time RVers’ right to vote was the most challenging, yet rewarding, advocacy role Escapees has achieved to date. It took two long years of courtroom battles that nearly landed on the steps of the Supreme Court, but in the end, 10,000 full-time RVers retained their right to vote. ​

September 2000

Escapees were caught in a serious political ping-pong match that placed the eligibility of 10,000 Escapees voters in jeopardy. Below is the series of battles that took place this month:

September 11

Approximately 1,000 official letters notifying members that they must prove their residency within 30 days or they will be placed on a suspense list and ballots will not be counted, had been sent when the Texas Secretary of State’s office issued an order to “cease and desist” until a full hearing occurred.

September 21

A hearing took place, and the presiding judge lifted the Secretary of State’s injunction and allowed an additional 9,000 residency confirmation notices to be sent. Once again, the voters in question had 30 days to respond.

September 22

Attorney General’s office requested a new trial based on evidence that Cathie Carr presented from her files from the Polk County Tax-Assessor-Collector (Marion Bid Smith).

September 23

The Houston Chronicle weighed in with the following statement, “Were this not an election year and were Polk County not ground zero for one of the most crucial state Senate selections in Texas, few would care where the RVers said they lived.”

September 26

Escapees formulated a full-blown protest at the Polk County Courthouse.

October 2

In a second hearing, the presiding judge ruled in Escapees favor and stopped the mailing of residency confirmation notices to the remaining 8,000 voters and required the tax-assessor to send a letter to all those who received a notice to disregard the confirmation card they were sent.

October 2000

October 4

Opposition appealed the judge’s decision and won an appeal, forcing a final decision to be made on the Federal level.

October 5

An Escapees-led caravan went to Austin, Texas and marched at the Supreme Court in protest.

October 25

A three-judge panel the U.S. District Court ruled that the en masse challenge was potentially discriminatory and would require a “preclearance” from the U.S. Department of Justice in order to take place now or in the future. Escapees voters were found eligible to vote and may disregard notices of residency confirmation.

Escapees RV Club prepared members for a major election contest that will once again jeopardize full-timers’ right to vote in Polk County and could set a precedence that could affect full-timers’ rights across the nation. Spokesperson and CEO Cathie Carr stated, “The Escapees RV Club has always been vocal about RVers’ rights, but now, more than ever, we are committed to taking on this advocacy role. We will remain steadfast in our persistence and unbending when it comes to defending our constitutional rights.”

January 2001

March 2001

Via a contested County Commissioner’s race, some 10,000 Escapees voters were called into question. Even though the Federal Courts ruled in favor of Escapees’ eligibility to vote in the 2000 national election, the issues determined in the courtroom at that time were confined to specific statutes in the Election Code. Escapees announced the institution of a “legal defense fund” to be used solely for the protection of RVers’ rights.

The Ninth Court of Appeals declared Escapees votes are legal! The three-judge panel concluded, “Based on the evidence in this case, the trial court properly concluded these challenged voters validly registered and did not cast illegal votes on the basis of the method of registration.”

January 2003

March 2008

While the voting rights of full-time RVers residing in Livingston, Texas continued to be upheld, Escapees RV Club reached out to members of the U.S. Congress, urging them to consider legislation that will protect the voting rights of full-time RVers nationwide. Sample letters were posted on Escapees website and members are urged to contact their state representatives to prevent unintentional disenfranchisement.

Escapees offered both support and assistance to the ACLU who brought a lawsuit against the state of Tennessee when 286 full-time RVers were dropped from the voter rolls. To date, the case has been dismissed. There is no confirmation on an appeal.

May 2008

May 2016

A bill in South Dakota legislature attempted to exclude full-time RVers who chose South Dakota as their domicile from voting in that state. After Escapees (with help from members in a grassroots campaign) petitioned the senator and congressman who introduced the bill, they decided to withdraw the bill.

Escapees CEO Shawn Loring visited the State Capitol in Austin to meet with legislators to suggest sample language to prevent a potentially hazardous bill (HB-389) from having a negative impact on RVers. Representatives were highly receptive to the suggestions made.

September 2016

July 2017

Escapees reported that after conversations with the author of HB-389 and other representatives, the author agreed to remove the detrimental language that would have prevented the use of a mail service address to establish a voter’s residence. In the end, the bill did not pass.

Protecting Overnight Parking Options

Protecting RVers’ right to park overnight in places other than commercial campgrounds has been a major advocacy focus for the past 20 years, and is ongoing still. To achieve an industry -accepted compromise between campground owners, consumers, and city/county/state regulations, Escapees created the “Good Neighbor Policy” which is now sanctioned by 35 RV clubs and industry organizations

January 1998

January

Escapees RV Club instituted a “Call to Action” to defeat legislation with the potential to prohibit overnight parking of RVs in all unauthorized places.

January

Escapees published an official overnight parking creed that outlines proper etiquette when parking at places like Walmart. This creed was later replaced with a sanctioned “Good Neighbor Policy.”

January

Escapees publicly opposed Affinity Group, Inc’s position on overnight parking when they state: “It is not our intention or desire to promote or condone overnight camping at anything other than established RV parks and campgrounds. We in fact, discourage the use of truck stops, vacant parking lots, Walmarts, rest areas, and the like as overnight camping facilities.”

January

Escapees rallied its members to write industry officials and RV organizations to uncover each group’s official position on the overnight parking controversy.

January

The Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RIVA) voiced its support of Escapees RV Club.

Escapees instituted a “Call to Action” in Illinois. Due to pressure from the Illinois Campground Association (ICA), Illinois considered a new health law that will prohibit RVers from parking at Walmart. Escapees suggested its members boycott all RV parks who are members of that association.

March 2000

May 2000

Escapees contacted the Illinois Division of Environmental Health to open a dialogue and put a stop to regulations that will stop overnight parking at Walmarts.

Walmart Corporation sent a letter of appreciation to Escapees RV Club for its overnight parking etiquette creed (Good Neighbor Policy) and extended an invitation allowing RVers to park overnight at Walmart stores at locations that are able to do so.

July 2000

January 2001

Esapees RV Club urged the Rapid City Council and Mayor’s office to reconsider its position to restrict overnight parking in their city. The Rapid City Planning Director responded favorably, explaining that the Mayor’s office reviewing the issue has taken Escapees’ comments into careful consideration and “is working on a draft proposal that will meet with your approval.”

Escapees RV Club continued to fight local ordinances that will make overnight parking a violation except in designated campgrounds. They reminded and encouraged all RVers to abide by a strict code of etiquette that is downloadable on Escapees website. They reported that they are working with various associations (such as ARVC) to find middle ground and are continuing dialogue with Rapid City, SD.

March 2001

May 2003

Escapees learned that Montana may be fast-tracking legislation that could hamper overnight parking in Walmart parking lots. Escapees RV Club created a grassroots campaign and spreads the message: “Overnight stays in private parking lots are used when circumstances make them the most sensible solution. Ideally, there should be all kinds of RV parking options: commercial, public and private. Every option need not come with a price tag or a license attached to it. RVers need the generous safety net that Walmart and others provide to tourists.”

Escapees RV Club continued to monitor legislation and local ordinances that hinder overnight parking options and push the “Good Neighbor Policy” across the industry. Escapees President Cathie Carr, wrote: “I refuse to be satisfied with the overnight parking creed program as it stands. I feel we must push forward with our efforts and bring more RV clubs on board to support this creed. Once the creed becomes the accepted nationwide practice among RVers, then all segments of the RV community (campground owners, campground associations and RVers) should finally be able to unify and end their age-old disagreements about free overnight parking options.”

May 2005

November 2005

November

From Alaska to Montana to Nevada, Escapees was busy working to defeat ordinances that would prohibit overnight parking anywhere but in campgrounds. Some campground owners, with the assistance of the National Association of RV Campgrounds (ARVC), continued to push for stricter regulations despite our efforts to reach a reasonable compromise.

November

The Good Neighbor policy began to gain momentum. FMCA, Airstream and Gulf Streamers have added their logos alongside Escapees RV Club. While other RV-related clubs have been invited, to date, no others have been willing to take a stand and put their name on the line.

November

Escapees sought unity through compromise and education:

  1. RV clubs must support and circulate the Good Neighbor Policy and encourage their members to abide by its guidelines.
  2. Campgrounds must back off on supporting and encouraging litigation, legislation and county ordinances that deny private enterprise the right to allow RVers to stay one night.
  3. RVers must agree not to abuse the system by extending their stays, even when a store manager has given them permission to do so!

Escapees hammered city governments and regulatory agencies are actually listening! Here are updates:

      –Billings, Montana: City Council amended the existing overnight parking ordinance to allow overnight parking stops up to 10 hours duration anywhere in the city.

      –Prince George, British Columbia: The City Council rescinded its ban on parking!

      –Laughlin, Nevada: Escapees publicly challenged the Health Department to disclose any documentation that supports their position that RVs dry-camping presents a public health or safety hazard. Escapees continued to work with local officials to reopen overnight parking at local casinos.

      –Elko, Nevada: Litigation between Double Dice RV Park and the City of Elko who have allowed overnight parking at Walmart continued.

-Maricopa County, Arizona: Escapees investigated an overnight parking violation between Moose Lodge and Maricopa County Environmental Services and learned that the Environmental office has “no issue with overnight parking when a trailer or RV is self-contained and agreed that a completely self-contained and properly functioning RV or trailer poses no health threat to the community.”

            –Vancouver, Washington: After a great deal of negative bogus news reports, the city council agreed to compromise and allow travelers to rest at Walmart for a few hours without prejudice.

September 2006

September 2006

Escapees RV Club President Cathie Carr, brought the Good Neighbor Policy to the industry “round table” where representatives from every large association were present (ARVC, RVIA, RVDA, KOA, Good Sam, FMCA), as well as other smaller RV Club officials. FMCA already showed public support for the policy and most of the other clubs agreed to bring the issue to their boards and then get back to us. Overall the feedback was very positive. ARVC, however, hasn’t provided any official statements and it appears their position has not changed.

We were pleased to announce more RV organizations joined the list of supporters of the Good Neighbor Policy. Bounders, Loners on Wheels, and Born Free Leapin’ Lions, along with Wally Byam Caravan Club, Gulfsteamers International, and FMCA joined Escapees.

May 2007

January 2008

The Discovery Owners Association, Winnebago-Itasca Travelers Club and RVing Women were the most recent additions to the Escapees Good Neighbor Policy which now totaled 10 organizations who sanction the overnight parking creed.

The history of the Good Neighbor Policy was continually publicized and the need for compliance was encouraged. The policy was now endorsed by 17 RV organizations.

January 2016

May 2016

An assembly committee in Anchorage, Alaska proposed a ban on RVers boondocking in business parking lots. After pressure from Escapees and upset RVers, the proposal was abandoned. We feel that bringing Escapees Good Neighbor Policy, sanctioned by 18 major RV organizations helped alleviate some of the committee’s fears.

Battling Unfair RV-Specific Taxes

While Escapees has been victorious in its many critical battles to protect the constitutional rights of RVers, an endless stream of laws and regulations continue to surface. A prime example is an ad valorem tax which significantly impacts travel trailer owners in Texas and other legislation across the states that target RVers unfairly.

May 2002

A Texas constitutional amendment created a new ad valorem tax which significantly impacts travel trailer owners. Escapees began a massive undertaking to overturn this law.

Escapees exposed a “foul play” component behind the Texas travel-trailer tax.

September 2002

March 2003

Escapees RV Club and the Texas Recreational Vehicle Association (TRVA) worked in concert with Senator Todd Staples to draft legislation that will offer provisions that give the legislature authorization to “exempt from ad valorem taxation a travel trailer not held or used for the production of income.” If successful, this will avoid the requirement to place a constitutional amendment before the voters before action can take place. It will repeal the tax and provide immediate relief from further taxation.

SJR 25 and SB 510 pass! These bills not only repealed the changes instituted by Proposition 14 (which created the travel trailer tax), they offered necessary language to protect against undue RV taxation in the future and call for a refund of the tax collected in 2002! Similar bills are still moving through the Texas State Assembly.

May 2003

May 2003

Escapees announced that the Motor Fuel Fair Competition Act (SB 211) was introduced into the South Dakota Senate, which would establish a minimum six percent markup on gasoline sold at any retail outlet or gas station in South Dakota was been defeated.

Escapees reported that bills in the Texas Assembly and Senate that repeal the travel trailer tax have been passed and signed by the Governor. The Polk County Appraisal District agreed to send refund checks from the tax collected for this purpose in 2002 which were mailed out in November.

July 2003

September 2003

Sealing the deal, Proposition 5, the Texas travel-trailer tax repeal constitutional amendment passed by 63 percent of the voters.

Escapees worked with state representatives to introduce bills in the Assembly and Senate that will repeal a tax surcharge on diesel recreational vehicles.

May 2005

Defeating Discriminatory U.S.P.S. Mandates

When the United States Postal Service announced new regulations that  would require all incoming mail for customers using a mail-forwarding service use a new insignia “PMB” (which stands for “private mail box”) in addition to the requirement that the PMBs be written on a separate line (using a mandatory 4-line format), as well as other discriminatory regulations, Escapees quickly rallied support to rescind those stringent requirements.

May 1999

Escapees learned new U.S.P.S. regulations will discriminate against RVers who use a mail-forwarding service anywhere in the nation.

Escapees rallied 30 Escapees member-families to join them in Washington D.C. to demonstrate at the Capitol. They visited with every congressman and senator that will see them.

June 1999

September 1999

Escapees won the support of 42 congressmen who will support a bill that will prevent discriminatory actions imposed by the U.S.P.S..

Escapees reported that there are now 53 co-sponsors supporting a bill (HJR-55) that will rescind the most discriminatory portions of the U.S.P.S. mandates.

November 1999

March 2000

Escapees and its supporters made further headway with the U.S.P.S. Compromises are expected.

Escapees alerted members to a public comment period and asked them to speak out against U.S.P.S. stringent PMB regulations and officially oppose the highly personal information that the U.S.P.S. will require to be shared on Postal Form 1583.

May 2000

May 2000

Escapees members were alerted to the public comment period.

The Federal Register closed the “public comment” period on April 12, 2000. The support to allow the use of a number sign (#) was overwhelming; however, 50 attorneys general signed a letter (which is believed to have been composed by the U.S.P.S.) opposing the number-sign option. At the time of printing there was no official word regarding the number sign or three-line address format options.

July 2000

September 2000

Escapees RV Club notified members of a new comment period regarding highly personal information shared on the U.S.P.S postal from 1583. CEO, Cathie Carr responded on Escapees Mail Service member’s behalf: “The document currently identified as P.O. Form 1583 should be simplified to do what it was intended to do in the first place, simply to release mail delivery for the individual to the agent. This could be accomplished with a single valid ID and a notarized signature.”

Escapees announced a victorious compromise with the U.S.P.S. that finally approved the optional use of a number sign (#) in place of the previously mandated PMB designator. U.S.P.S. also backed off their originally sought four-line format and agreed to accept a three-line format. To make the victory even sweeter, the U.S.P.S. extended the compliance deadline a full year beyond its original demand.

November 2000

Eliminating Discriminatory Driver License Regulations

While the average citizen takes a driver license for granted, full-time RVers can encounter unexpected obsticles when regulatory changes take place. Since driver licenses are commonly used as an acceptabe form of identification across the United States, laws regulating the issuance of a driver license are interconnected with other regulatory agencies and various legal componets can adversely affect full-time RVers unintentionally.

January 2003

Escapees reported that a new bill in the U.S. Senate (S.307) entitled the Driver License Fraud Prevention Act could pose a whole new set of challenges for full-time RVers.

The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators (AAMVA) was working on mandates that will be issued to all DMVs, DOTs and DP departments. This group has the authority to submit standards that will regulate the issuance of a driver license based on what they determine to be proper credentials. The definition is alarming: “A person must have an actual physical dwelling place in the jurisdiction in which he she seeks to obtain a driver license or an identification card.”

January 2003

March 2003

Escapees submitted supplemental language to the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators that will eliminate the automatic disenfranchisement that the original language could have created.

Escapees worked with the Texas Department of Public Safety to clarify misinterpretations of a newly formed law that resulted in some individuals using a mail forwarding service address to be denied a driver license. With the help of Texas Representative John Otto, the issue statewide was quickly resolved.

March 2012

November 2015

Efforts to protect RVers’ rights continued. Despite diligent research by a team of attorneys in both South Dakota and Texas, an undisclosed policy by South Dakota Department of Public Safety prevented members from obtaining a driver license using the mail service in Box Elder, SD for a short time. The issue was quickly resolved after Escapees worked directly with the DPS director and DPS counsel.

Assisting With Satellite Services for Traveling RVers

Many full-time RVers depend on satellite TV to get their news and entertianment. FCC regulations are enacted that hamper RV and mobile customers. Escapees contacted the major satellite providers and special waivers are accepted with certain limitations.

July 1999

Escapees instituted a “Call to Action” asking members to write to their congressman about detrimental digital satellite system laws. They gained strong vocal support from Congressman Jim Turner, who vows to “continue to help lessen the impact of the court ruling and work with colleagues to pass legislation to halt termination of RVers satellite signals.”

Escapees updated members on headway made on RV waiver forms that will assist traveling RVers to receive local news and entertainment via satellite.

July 2002

September 2002

Escapees made further headway with satellite providers to accept waivers from RVers. PBS access was a big issue but Escapees reports making headway with Dish Network.

Battling Adverse Motor Vehicle Laws for Full-Time RVers

Great victories can be accomplished when RVers, dealers, manufacturers and associations work together toward a common goal. When it comes to legislative bills that affect motor vehicles across the nation, industry unity is key.

March 1999

Escapees went to bat when it learns of a new California law that will consider all trucks over 10,000 pounds (GVWR) to be “commercial” vehicles and will require drivers to have a motor carrier permit, regardless of use.

Due to quick action by Escapees RV Club the commercial compliance law in California was overturned.

May 1999

November 2000

California State Assembly Bill 2175, which would increase the maximum allowable length of motorhomes driven in California from 40 feet to 45 feet, was vetoed by Governor Gary Davis. Escapees vows to assist RVIA in a continued effort to increase motorhome lengths in California. 

Escapees continued to assist RVIA to overturn legislation currently limiting RVs to 40 feet in California.

March 2001

January 2002

Escapees reported that 45-foot motorhomes are now legal in California.

Escapees warned members about new CAFÉ (corporate average fuel economy) requirements.

September 2007

May 2014

A new procedural change involving vehicle inspection procedures in Texas caused a backlash that requires vehicle owners to return to the state 90 days prior to registration renewals. Escapees immediately sprung into action and was working with the Department of Public Safety, the Department of Motor Vehicles, alongside state representatives to modify the law to better accommodate travelers.

Weighing in on Various Parks and Recreation Bills

Some bills are controversial in nature. Escapees RV Club is careful not to speak on behalf of its members unless there is a clear majority of support. In certain instances, reports are merely informational, in other cases, our voice is strong and clear.

March 1999

Escapees shared information about the Federal Activities Reform Act of 1998 and publically opposes the National RV Campground Owners Association (ARVC) position.

HB 1142 and SB 5775 were introduced in Washington State. These bills called for an excise tax (five to eight percent) on all RVs registered in the state to help pay for state park maintenance. While Escapees RV Club felt it is important to help fund public parks, it felt it is unfair to tax only RV owners, who are not any more likely to use the parks than auto-truck owners or hikers and bikers. Thankfully another RV-specific tax is struck down.

May 2003

January 2004

Escapees RV Club advised that the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (HR 3283) bears watching as it has the potential to make major changes in the fee structure for most public lands and national parks.

The Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (HR 3283) was a controversial bill from the start. On one hand, many felt that the fee demo program will improve park and public lands funding by keeping the majority of the fees at the parks where they were collected. Others believed that these lands should be free to all Americans and are concerned that rate increases may get out of hand. Escapees RV Club feels it would be presumptuous to speak on behalf of a divided membership; therefore, alerts were sent via Escapees E-news bulletins, providing specific contact information so that all individuals can directly voice their opinions to the legislators and committee members working the bill.

May 2005

September 2016

Escapees was investigating potential threats to RVers’ ability to use state parks in Pennsylvania and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land nationwide.

Special Attention Needed on Homeland Security Laws

Terminology used in legislation and law can be unintentionally detrimental for full-time RVers. Escapees RV Club tries hard to monitor phrases like “legal residency,” “fixed dwellings,” “physical locations,” and these simple little words can have disasterous consequences.

January 2004

Escapees RV Club warned members that new homeland security laws could create unintentional fallout for full-time RVers. Terminology targeted “legal residency” as being a fixed physical geographical location that many state and federal agencies rely on for verification purposes. Escapees RV Club vowed to help legislators and their working committees to better understand the unique needs of full-time RVers by educating them on the safety of legal CMRAs (Commercial Mail Receiving Agencies) as ideal alternatives for those who do not have a fixed physical dwelling place.

Negotiations that began in 2002 just now reached the United States Congress floor as part of the REAL ID Act of 2005. Language coming from the Motor Vehicle Administrators Association proposed a new definition of residency as part of the requirements to qualify for a driver license which said: “A person must have an actual physical dwelling place in the jurisdiction in which he or she seeks to obtain a driver license or identification card.” Escapees RV Club interjected some minor wording changes so that the definition would instead read: “A person’s primary residence or domicile must be located within the jurisdiction in which he or she seeks to obtain a driver license.” As you can imagine, this minor change made a world of difference for full-time RVers.

May 2005

May 2007

Escapees government affairs team traveled to Austin, Texas to meet with State Representative John Otto and Senator Robert Nichols to refresh discussions that are important in the ongoing protection of RVers’ civil liberties. We felt this was especially important as Texas progresses toward implementing the Federal Real ID directives.

Industry Coalitions Established to Safeguard RVers

Terminology used in legislation and law can be unintentionally detrimental for full-time RVers. Escapees RV Club tries hard to monitor phrases like “legal residency,” “fixed dwellings,” “physical locations,” and these simple little words can have disasterous consequences.

November 2004

Escapees RV Club, under the auspices of RVIA, joined a coalition of clubs and industry associations referred to as RVAct. One of the projects the coalition was investigating is “RV-Friendly” road-signs icons. The program was recently tested in Oregon with favorable results and Louisiana has introduced legislation to authorize testing there as well. Escapees sought opinions from the membership at large.

Escapees RV Club solicited help from members in each state who might serve as contact persons should lobbying need to take place there. Members who have good relationships with state officials in their home state, or have background in this area, are asked to contact Escapees national headquarters.

May 2005

May 2016

HUD (Housing and Urban Development Department) decided to alter their definition of RVs. Escapees concern was that the language used by this federal agency could prevent RVers from legally living full-time in their RVs. Escapees submitted alternative language and we are waiting on the verdict.