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Escapees RV Club Advocacy

In 1998, at the brink of Escapees 20th year anniversary, a new branch of service begins. Perhaps the most important role it would ever play springs to life. After a 20-year policy to remain non-religious and non-political, Escapees RV Club determines that if they don’t take the lead in protecting full-time RVers rights, no one would.

Current Advocacy Status:
Bureau of Land Management Proposal

Advocacy Alert: April 28, 2023

On April 3, 2023, there was a proposed rule put forward from the Land Management Bureau. This is the agency that oversees the BLM land that most RVers are familiar with.

From the Federal Register the Summary is as follows:

“The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) proposes new regulations that, pursuant to the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA), as amended, and other relevant authorities, would advance the BLM’s mission to manage the public lands for multiple use and sustained yield by prioritizing the health and resilience of ecosystems across those lands. To ensure that health and resilience, the proposed rule provides that the BLM will protect intact landscapes, restore degraded habitat, and make wise management decisions based on science and data. To support these activities, the proposed rule would apply land health standards to all BLM-managed public lands and uses, clarify that conservation is a “use” within FLPMA’s multiple-use framework, and revise existing regulations to better meet FLPMA’s requirement that the BLM prioritize designating and protecting Areas of Critical Environmental Concern (ACECs). The proposed rule would add to provide an overarching framework for multiple BLM programs to promote ecosystem resilience on public lands.”

This proposed rule change may or may not affect your access to BLM land in the future.  Read the entire rule here. Public comments are requested by June 20, 2023. Comments can be made through the website or at Regulations.gov.

Please remember, as thousands of new RV enthusiasts join us on the road, it is more important than ever to be good stewards of our environment. Protecting and preserving our public lands should be our honor and must be our pledge. Whether we choose a national park, national forest, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) site, or other public lands, these practices always apply. Remember, camping on public lands is a privilege, not a right. Abuse can create tighter regulations, raise maintenance fees, and have an overall negative impact on public lands and our ability to use them in the spirit in which they were intended. With the help and support of our advocates, the Escapees RV Club has created a condensed list of “Best RVing Practices” to ensure that our public lands will remain beautiful treasures that we can retreat to as we travel. Read or download Escapees entire Boondocking Policy to share with others.

In closing, I would like to thank the member for bringing this issue to the attention of Escapees. In the future, if any member has an issue that you believe Escapees needs to be aware of, please use the form at the bottom of this page to notify us.

Current Advocacy Status:
Senate Bill 139 Requires 30 Days for New South Dakota Residents

Advocacy Update: April 13, 2023

As stated previously, we reached out to the South Dakota Secretary of State office several times. The first time we were verbally told that the new 30-day law would require a new resident to be in the state for at least 30-days in a calendar year, but they did not have answers to our other questions and requested that we send an email so that the entire elections team could work on them. Late yesterday evening, (April 12), we received the following answers from Director Rachel Soulek, of the Division of Elections Office of the Secretary of State, to our written questions. Please note that they retracted the calendar year statement they initially made in our phone call. Unfortunately, the answers they provided do not give us any concrete decisions about how all of this will be interpreted in the end.

  • Q: We understand that you are working on additional information regarding the new law which will require new residents to maintain a residence within the state for at least thirty days prior to submitting a registration form. It is unclear if that is within a calendar year. Will residents swear or legally affirm the thirty days, or will additional proof be required?
    • A: SB 139 does not say calendar year or any other time frame in which the 30 days is counted.  Not having a definitive start and end date in which to determine if the 30 day requirement is met is problematic and may need a court to determine the meaning of the statute.   SB 139 also gives no guidance as to the level of proof that will be needed in order to meet the 30 day requirement.  Neither does it give the SOS office nor the State Board of Elections the ability to promulgate rules interpreting or implementing the statute.

       

  • Q: As a fulltime RVer who has no other residence in SD, or in any other state in the United States, or elsewhere, be allowed to use a federally licensed CMRA (Commercial Mail Receiving Agent) on their voter registration form? Please understand that this address is the one used for all legal documents including a driver license, insurance, registering vehicles, etc. This is also the address used to establish a legal domicile in South Dakota. It is used for doctors, lawyers, trusts, wills, and other critical mail.
    • A: This question is also not answered in the bill.  Please remember that county auditors are the ones who determine voter eligibility, SDCL 12-4-5.3 and the referred to language may very well require a court’s interpretation.

       

  • Q: Section 1 (12-4-4) states: “For the purposes of this title, the term, residence, means the place in which a person is domiciled as shown by an actual fixed permanent dwelling, establishment, or any other abode to which the person returns after a period of absence.” Surely South Dakota does not intend to disenfranchise citizens of their state and deny them their Constitutional right to vote simply because they don’t own a typical “abode.” It is our hope, and our contention, that the words “domiciled” and “establishment” were purposeful and intentionally used to allow legally domiciled fulltime RVers to use their legal address for voting.
    • A: A person’s Constitutional right to vote is very important to Secretary Johnson and she will do all that she can do to protect that right. The SOS office expects that no one presently registered to vote will lose that right to vote with the passage of SB 139.

Our next step will be to reach out to the Pennington County, South Dakota auditor’s office for further information. We will keep the Escapees SD mail service members posted as we learn more.

Advocacy Update: April 5, 2023

We followed up with the South Dakota Secretary of State office this week (April 3rd) to see if further details were available regarding the new law (SB 139) and restated some of our questions. They were very accommodating but clearly did not have all the answers yet. They requested that we submit a formal email so that the entire elections teams could assist in providing us with the most accurate answers. That email was sent on April 4th. As of April 5th, after reaching out again, the elections teams responded by saying they are still looking into our questions and appreciate our patience. We will provide an update as soon as we receive concrete answers.

Advocacy Alert: March 29, 2023

Escapees recently informed the members about two bills that were introduced in the South Dakota Legislature (HB 1232 and SB 124) that would restrict citizens from using a commercial address and/or campground for the purposes of registering to vote in South Dakota. We were pleased to report that both bills were defeated.

Unfortunately, a third bill (SB 139) recently passed the House, Senate and the Governor has now signed the bill. Escapees did send a letter explaining the problems with the bill and how it will affect new residents. While the language is not as restrictive as the other two bills, it could cause a burden to RVers who decide to make South Dakota their domicile.

In the past, South Dakota allowed new residents to register to vote after a one-night stay. New law, SB 139 states that to qualify to vote, a resident must spend at least thirty days in the state prior to submitting a registration to vote.

We called the South Dakota Secretary of State office for details and confirmed that this affects new residents only. If you have already registered to vote, you will not be required to do anything different. As of July 1, 2023, new residents will be required to spend at least 30 days in the state within the calendar year prior to registering to vote the first time. We asked what proof would be required and were told that it will most likely be a legal affirmation; however, they are still working on the details.

During testimony, Senator Diebert (the author) and the supporting Senate members, said the objective of this bill is to ensure that South Dakota resident voters have some “skin in the game.”

Current Advocacy Status:
House Bill 1232 & Senate Bill 124 Impede RVers Right to Vote in South Dakota

Advocacy Update: February  28, 2023

Senate Bill 124 and House Bill 1232 are Dead!

We are happy to announce that the South Dakota Senate State Affairs Committee and the South Dakota House State of Affairs Committee voted to defer SB 124 and HB 1232 to the “41st legislative day.” Since there cannot be more than 40 legislative days in a session, this is a simple way to kill a bill.

Special thanks to Escapees members who contacted their representatives opposing these bills, and to Senator Castleberry for reaching out via email over the holiday weekend to confirm that the bills are dead.

Advocacy Alert: February  7, 2023

It has come to our attention that the proposed bills House Bill 1232 and Senate Bill 124 contain language which will affect RVers who use South Dakota for their domicile but most importantly will impede their right to vote.

Sponsored by Karla Lems, a District 16 Republican, HB1232 declares “the term, residence, means the place in which a person has fixed the person’s habitation and to which the person, whenever absent, intends to return.” Additionally, the bill states “no person may register to vote using a business location or campground as a registration address.”

Introduced by Julie Frye-Mueller, a Republican from District 30, SB124 is to “ensure that the address provided in the voter registration application is confirmed as a residence and not a commercial or industrial address…”

This is not the first time that South Dakota has had legislation along these lines introduced. Fortunately, similar bills have not been voted into law in the past. Escapees Advocacy will once again reach out to SD legislators, but it’s important that legislators hear from you as well! No one should be forced to live in a sticks-and-bricks home in order to exercise their right to vote. These bills are not out of committee yet, and with your help, they will die before ever hitting the House or Senate Floor.

Should you choose to contact your legislators or representatives, please consider the following tips:

  • Identify yourself and how you are connected with the issue and the elected official.
  • Provide relevant materials and include your contact information for potential follow-up.
  • Be specific and prioritize your requests in a clear and effective manner.
  • Always be polite and remember you not only represent yourself but also your RVing community. Be a resource, not an adversary.

House Bill 1232, Representative Karla Lems- Karla.Lems@sdlegislature.gov
Senate Bill 124, Senator Julie Frye-Mueller- Julie.FryeMueller@sdlegislature.gov

For additional information and a breakdown on these bills, we recommend visiting RVTravel.com.

Current Advocacy Status:
Senate Bill 1111: Using a PO Box or Commercial Address for Voter Registration

Advocacy Update: September 23, 2021

We do not believe that the changes to the code will have an impact on members who use their Rainbow Drive address at Rainbow’s End as a legal domicile address for voting.

Escapees reached out to Polk County Tax Assessor (and Voter Registrar), Leslie Burks, for comment. Mrs. Burks is a longtime friend and supporter of the Escapees RV Club.

After verifying her obligations with various state representatives, she confirmed that it would be business as usual. If an Escapees member can produce a valid and current driver’s license, a state-issued personal identification card, or other accepted documents, then that person will be allowed to register to vote. (All other requirements of voter registration, naturally, still apply.) Mrs. Burks concluded that in the wake of Speights v. Willis where the Escapees advocacy team secured the right of Escapees to use a mail-forwarding address to register to vote, this is a well-settled matter. Escapees are welcome to domicile and register to vote in Polk County.

Mrs. Burks indicated that she has no intention of sending out voter confirmation notices to all of our members. However, if you’re interested in learning more about S.B. 1111, or have concerns about filling out a “Notice to Confirm Voter Registration Address” should you receive one, you may view more details here: Explanation of Voter Confirmation as it applies to full-time RVers using their Rainbow Drive address.

It’s important to note that if you should receive a voter confirmation notice, you have 30 days to respond. If you do not receive your mail on a regular basis, you may want to increase your mail-forwarding instructions during election periods, or upgrade to the scanning service, so you can check incoming mail daily.

Advocacy Notice: September 8, 2021

On September 1, 2021, Texas legislation (SB-1111) was passed. Revisions to the Texas Election Code could pose a threat to full-time RVers who use a commercial post office box in the state.

New language states that a person “may not establish residence at any place the person has not inhabited.” It also states that if “the voter’s residence address is a commercial post office box or similar location that does not correspond to a residence, the registrar shall deliver the voter a written confirmation notice requesting confirmation of the voter’s current residence.”

It is the Escapees RV Club’s contention that while the Escapees Mail Service houses its mail in a commercial building, that building is part of a 175-acre RV community called Rainbow’s End that many full-time RVers consider their only home. Rainbow’s End is made up of deeded lots, lease lots, rental lots and even an Assisted Living facility for its members. This is where they establish doctors, set-up bank accounts, register their vehicles, obtain driver’s licenses, secure insurance, and should that day come, possibly use the Escapees CARE Assisted Living Facility on grounds.

No laws should preclude a citizen from traveling continually if they so choose. And no law should disenfranchise a voter who has done everything they can to set up a legal domicile, just because they don’t own/lease property unnecessarily.   

To date, no one that we are aware of has been denied the opportunity to register to vote using their Escapees Service address. However, Escapees RV Club has retained an attorney firm in Austin who specializes in legislative law. They are doing further research, will be advising us, and will represent us should the need arise.

Once again, we assure you that will do everything within our power to ensure that full-time RVers’ constitutional rights are upheld.

Current Advocacy Status:
Texas Public Overnight Camping Issue Regarding Bills, HB 1925 and SJR 987

Advocacy Update: May 12, 2021

Recently we became aware of twin bills proposed in Texas that attempt to make overnight public camping a Class C Misdemeanor–punishable by a fine of up to $500.00. While the intent of the bills is not to impact the RVing community, the definition of “shelter” found in the bills is so broad as to easily be applied to RVers. We are currently working with our contacts in the Texas legislature (Rep. James White and Sen. Robert Nichols) on language to exempt RVers from these bills. Both bills are still currently in their respective committees where revisions to the language occur. 

While we are making some progress and we have the support of both Rep. White and Sen. Nichols, we are far from having this issue resolved. Please know, we will continue to work with their offices and monitor these bills as they move through the legislative process. We appreciate all of you who contacted us about this important issue. 

While you are always free to contact your government officials, at this time we are not calling for a grassroots campaign. However, should that become the best course of action we will notify our members and the RVing community via our regular communication channels.

Advocacy Notice: April 15, 2021

In our initial research of Texas Senate Bill 987, we determined that while the bill does not expressly define RVs, the definition of “shelter” is written too broadly and therefor could inherently impact RVers. As such Escapees RV Club will work towards a plan of action and establish communications with Rep. White and Sen. Nichols, as there is also a companion bill (HB 1925) moving through the House of Representatives.

Be Informed

Many of our advocacy efforts and requests for action are communicated through our Club Newsletter. If you would like to receive this update, which includes information on club events, new services and benefits and other announcements, in addition to advocacy information, please sign-up.

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Escapees RV Club has many ways of addressing advocacy for all RVers

Past Advocacy Victories

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.

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.

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.

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.

Special Attention Needed on Homeland Security

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.  

Battling Unfair Federal and State Regulations for Full-Time RVers

Full-time RVers, due to their unique lifestyle, are often overlooked or not considered during the creation of laws, regulations, and policies. As such, major obstacles can unintentionally arise that unfairly impede RVers. Escapees continually works to educate officials on the nuances of the RV lifestyle while fighting for solutions so that they do not inadvertently affect RVers. 

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.

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.

Assisting With Satellite Services for Traveling RVers

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

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.

Industry Coalitions Established to Safeguard RVers

No one should ever have to choose between living the RV lifestyle or giving up their civil liberties. Defending, protecting and securing legislation that preserves RVers’ rights is our ultimate aim. We also feel it beneficial to work with industry leaders to promote the well-being of RVers in general.

Help Us Protect RVers Rights

If you’d like to submit a topic or issue you think we should research, let us know!