Friday, May 20, 2016

TARO: Working on behalf of the Texas golf industry

Earlier this month, I contributed an article about Texan Ken Gorzycki, CGCS, to the GCSAA Government Affairs blog. I wanted to provide more in-depth information about the Texas Alliance of Recreational Organizations (TARO). TARO is a very important organization serving the golf industry in Texas by serving as a “watch dog” for legislative and regulatory issues that impact the golf and club industry in Texas. They have been serving in this important role since 1993. 

In addition to the great legislative work the organization does, TARO provides the Texas club industry with an opportunity to hear from industry experts on important regulatory and legislative matters by conducting Allied Association Regional Meetings. These events are open to all allied association members, including, but not limited to: CMAA, PGA, GCSAA, NGCOA, USTA, ACF and club board members. Generally, there is no registration fee to attend.  Instead, TARO asks attendees to make a voluntary contribution to TARO PAC.

The next event will be held on October 11 at Bent Tree Country Club in Dallas. The lineup for the event is terrific and a can’t-miss opportunity. Click here for details and to RSVP. The highlight of the day will be a panel discussion titled: Working Together for Successful Club Operations. John Cunningham, CGCS, is the golf course superintendent at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis, Mo., and will be a part of the panel. In addition to the panel sessions, TARO Lobbyist and former Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, Gib Lewis, will provide a legislative update. 

Ken Gorzycki (L) on Capitol Hill meeting with
Senator Ted Cruz's staff on National Golf Day.

What is TARO?

The Texas Alliance of Recreational Organizations is a non-profit alliance of clubs, other organizations, and individuals interested in recreational activities within the State.  Its purpose is to participate effectively in the state’s legislative and regulatory processes for the benefit of its supporters and their constituents.  This participation involves a high quality lobbying effort with the Legislature, monitoring regulations under existing laws, a continuing communication program with its supporters centering on legislative and regulatory issues affecting them, and maintenance of an action network which is mobilized as necessary to advocate Alliance positions.  The further purpose of Texas Alliance of Recreational Organizations is to educate its supporters on issues affecting them and to foster good will among its supporters by preparation and circulation of periodic publications and sponsorship of educational programs.

What are the ongoing issues that TARO is involved with?

As the trade association for the Texas club industry, TARO does two things:
1.  Be involved in the political world
2.  Shape polices that come from it

The following issues remain high priorities for TARO and our allied associations:

Greenbelt Act

In Texas since 1977 property taxes on restricted recreational lands have been based on the appraised value of the land as used and not what it might be used for.  This saves clubs in Texas tens of thousands of dollars every year.  This is known as the Greenbelt Law.  It is fair and entirely justified by the aesthetic and environmental advantages realized by the areas blessed with such recreational land.  Moreover, much of the value of property adjoining recreational land is attributable to the existence of the recreational land.  You should know that clubs and other owners of recreational land do pay taxes on buildings based on regular appraisal values.  In recent sessions there have been attempts, sometimes just threats, to repeal the Greenbelt law.  TARO has successfully defended Greenbelt and will continue to do so.

Some non-golf clubs mistakenly believe TARO is only about Greenbelt and does not benefit them.  A financially healthy private club industry is important to all clubs, whether city clubs, golf, tennis, fishing, sailing or other clubs.  However, many clubs that own recreational land would be taxed out of existence without the protection of Greenbelt treatment in valuing that land.  Thus the entire club industry benefits from Greenbelt. (Greenbelt Overview)


As the state’s population continues to grow, the demand for water will remain a high priority issue for recreational clubs.  TARO works closely with the Lone Star GCSA and allied associations to educate regulators and lawmakers that we, as an industry, are good users of water and are proactive in taking conservation measures and employing best practice measures.

Public accommodation laws

One important reason TARO was formed was to protect the right of free association.  In recent times clubs have been targets for so called “public accommodation” laws.  These laws sought to open membership in social organizations by defining them as public accommodations, which would have to be open to everyone.

Alcohol regulations

TARO has fought efforts to increase the fees charged for the many permits required for private clubs under the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code.  This also included bills to require the posting of cash conduct security bonds.  Many private clubs in Texas cannot afford any increase in permit fees and are struggling to meet current expenses.


TARO retains Gib Lewis, former Speaker of the Texas House of Representatives, as a full time legislative consultant to represent the club industry before state agencies and the Legislature.  For many years now, all clubs have benefited from TARO but relatively few have furnished financial support.  It is time for all to contribute a fair share!

How can clubs become involved?

TARO depends on the support and funding of clubs throughout the state to maintain our resources that help protect the Texas club industry. TARO contributions subsidize operating costs and expenses related to our lobbying staff and industry research.

A minimal investment towards supporting TARO now, is guaranteed to pay dividends in the future!  We understand the dilemma clubs face in these turbulent economic times, therefore contribution amounts may vary from club to club.  Regardless of the amount of your contribution, it is imperative that the legislature recognizes the strength of TARO’s constituency.

Many clubs contribute to TARO out of their annual budget but that is not the only way.  Other club's Board of Directors have approved the addition of a voluntary contribution line on the member's club statement raising as much as $10,000 each year through $10.00/$15.00 annual member contributions.

Who are the allied associations that support TARO?

Lone Star GCSA 
Texas Lone Star Chapter of CMAA
North Texas PGA
Texas Turfgrass Association
South Texas PGA
USTA Texas Section
Texas Golf Association

The Texas Alliance of Recreational Organizations (TARO) was formed in 1993 by some fourteen major Texas private country clubs, to protect our interests in the Texas Legislature.  Through the years over one hundred clubs have supported TARO and that support is still growing.  In an effort to provide education to state legislators, TARO has an affiliated Political Action Committee, which can accept contributions from private individuals.

TARO cannot afford to ignore activities in the legislature, as it could have dramatic impacts on club operations.  TARO PAC is employed to educate elected officials on the importance of our issues and support the election of those friendly to our cause.  This is an essential and legal way to protect our interests and we need your help!

How can individuals support the work being done by TARO?

By rule of law, TARO PAC can only accept personal checks from private individuals.  Personal contributions of as little as $25 can go a long way towards preserving a positive business environment for private clubs.

The Executive Director of TARO is Sam Brewster and can answer any questions you might have. You can reach him at 214-871-9800 or Visit TARO’s website for excellent information about the organization and an advocacy center that can help you understand the important issues that are affecting our industry. I encourage golf course superintendents and all related industry professionals to learn more about TARO and GET INVOLVED!