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Taking co-op message to D.C. lawmakers

Sixty-five Tennesseans joined 2,100 co-op leaders from across the country in Washington, D.C. for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s Legislative Conference on Tuesday and Wednesday, April 25 and 26. Co-op directors, managers and senior staff visited with Tennessee’s congressional delegation to discuss energy supply, rural infrastructure, broadband, tax policy and other issues important to co-ops.

During an address at the conference, Energy Secretary Rick Perry hailed electric cooperatives for delivering affordable, reliable electricity to rural America and encouraged them to advocate on their challenges, especially grid security. “We have the greatest electric grid in the world,” Perry said, “and we need to keep it that way.”

“From energy and economic development to broadband and rural commerce, co-ops have a significant impact on Tennessee’s rural communities,” says David Callis, executive vice president of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “The decisions made in D.C. matter, and it is important for co-ops to be engaged. I appreciate the co-op leaders from across the state who joined us on Capitol Hill to tell the co-op story.”

Co-op leaders met with U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker as well as Reps. Black, Blackburn, Duncan, Desjarlais, Fleischmann, Kustoff and Roe.

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Broadband Accessibility Act Passes General Assembly

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee House of Representatives tonight passed the Broadband Accessibility Act on a 93 to 4 vote. The legislation now moves to Gov. Bill Haslam for his signature.

“Access to high-speed internet has the potential to shape the future of rural Tennessee,” says David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “Gov. Haslam, Sen. Mark Norris and Rep. David Hawk have been tireless advocates for this legislation. We appreciate them and everyone who showed their support for the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act and the people of rural Tennessee.”

The Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act removes restrictions that currently prevent electric cooperatives from providing retail internet access. More than 800,000 Tennesseans, many of whom live in areas served by electric co-ops, do not have access to high-speed internet.

The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association provides leadership, advocacy and support for Tennessee’s 23 electric cooperatives and publishes The Tennessee Magazine, the state’s most widely circulated periodical. Visit tnelectric.org or tnmagazine.org to learn more.

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FOR MORE INFORMATION
Trent Scott | Vice President of Strategy | 615.515.5534 | tscott@tnelectric.org

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Co-ops bring young leaders to Nashville

More than 45 high school juniors from across the state attended the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association’s annual Youth Leadership Summit March 13–15 in Nashville.

Sen. Jim Tracy on Tuesday, March 14, greeted delegates attending the three-day leadership and government workshop. Tracy welcomed the young leaders to the Senate Chamber of the Tennessee State Capitol where Alan Whittington, assistant chief clerk of the Senate, explained the process required to pass legislation. Students had the opportunity to debate and vote on a mock bill.

Reps. Mike Bell and John Ray Clemmons joined Sen. Tracy for a town hall meeting with attendees. The three discussed the legislative process and answered questions posed by summit attendees. Delegates then had the opportunity to listen in on debate in House and Senate committee meetings in Legislative Plaza.

In addition to a hands-on look at state government, delegates to the event learned team-building and problem-solving skills and developed a better understanding of their local electric cooperatives.

“I have learned a lot about the Senate and House of Representatives and how laws are passed,” says  Sarah Shoate, a junior from Adamsville High School attending the Youth Leadership Summit. “I’m really grateful for the opportunity to come here and improve my leadership skills. I’m grateful for Pickwick Electric Cooperative. My co-op really does a lot to make sure leaders of tomorrow get the opportunities they deserve.”

Delegates to the Youth Leadership Summit are encouraged to be leaders and use their talents to improve rural Tennessee. “Local electric co-ops, school officials and guidance counselors chose these deserving students to attend the summit based on their interests in government and strong leadership abilities,” says Todd Blocker, vice president of member relations for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association and director of the Youth Leadership Summit. “They will be the next generation of leaders in rural Tennessee, and we want to prepare them for the challenges and opportunities they will face.”

“We want these students to share our passion for rural Tennessee and help them appreciate the things that make our rural communities special,” says David Callis, CEO of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “Each year we are encouraged by the caliber of young people who call rural Tennessee ‘home.’”

 

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Co-ops Respond to Governor’s Broadband Plan

NASHVILLE – Today Governor Bill Haslam announced the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act, a part of the NextTennessee legislative agenda. The plan outlines efforts to expand broadband access in Tennessee, including lifting restrictions that currently prevent electric co-ops from providing retail broadband service.

“The Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act acknowledges the unique role electric co-ops can play in expanding access to broadband,” said David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “We are honored that the governor recognizes the deep roots co-ops have in rural and suburban Tennessee, and we look forward to working with the members of the 110th General Assembly to expand connectivity and opportunity.”

Electric cooperatives are consumer-owned, not-for-profit energy companies. There are 23 electric co-ops in Tennessee that provide energy to 2.5 million Tennesseans across 71 percent of that state’s landmass. Co-ops serve areas with the greatest need for expanded broadband access, but legal restrictions currently prevent co-ops from providing retail broadband service.

Co-op members are encouraged to visit takeactionTN.com to sign up for updates about broadband expansion in Tennessee.

The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association provides legislative and communication support for Tennessee’s 23 electric cooperatives and publishes The Tennessee Magazine, the state’s most widely circulated periodical. Visit tnelectric.org or tnmagazine.org to learn more.

 

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Contact:
Trent Scott | Vice President of Corporate Strategy | tscott@tnelectric.org | 731.608.1519

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110th Tennessee General Assembly app now available

Legislative directory app connects Tennesseans with elected officials

NASHVILLE – Tennesseans interested in government and politics have a powerful, pocket-sized tool for connecting with their elected representatives.

The 110th Tennessee General Assembly app features a continually updated, searchable database of contact, staff and committee information as well as photos, leadership roles and social media profiles for members of the Tennessee House and Senate.  The app also contains information on the governor and his cabinet and the Tennessee Congressional delegation.

Developed by the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association and Bass, Berry & Sims PLC, the 99-cent app is available for iPhone, iPad and Android devices and can be found by searching for “Tennessee General Assembly” in the Apple App Store or Google PLAY Marketplace.

newphone“We have produced print directories of the General Assembly for more decades, and this is our fifth year to release an app,” says David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “It is important for Tennesseans to be active and involved with their elected officials, and the app is a tool that makes it easy to speak up on issues that are important.”

“The app is ideal for anyone who wants to monitor the activities at the state Capitol and is designed to be the best reference possible for those who are interested in or work with Tennessee legislators,” says Dick Lodge, partner with Bass Berry & Sims PLC.

The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association provides legislative and communication support for Tennessee’s 23 electric cooperatives and publishes The Tennessee Magazine, the state’s most widely circulated periodical. Visit tnelectric.org or tnmagazine.org to learn more.

 

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Contact:
Trent Scott | Vice President of Corporate Strategy | tscott@tnelectric.org | 731.608.1519

Images:
Download high resolution graphics of the app icon and the app.

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Broadband Communications Plan

You do not have access to this content. Please contact Trent Scott at tscott@tnelectric.org for more information on the broadband communications plan.
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Legislature expected to bring big changes

When the 110th General Assembly gavels into session on January 10th, a number of issues of importance to electric co-ops stand to become major points of focus for lawmakers.  After the first week’s formalities and announcements of committee assignments, there will be a two-week recess to move offices and re-organize. Then, the session will kick into high gear as Governor Haslam will deliver his State of the State address on the first day that Members return to Nashville.

Currently, the State has a budget surplus of over $1 billion. The State of the State typically focuses on the Governor’s budget priorities, and this year’s address should provide no shortage of ideas on how to budget those surplus funds. The following day, January 31, will be TECA’s annual Day on the Hill and Legislative Reception. Attendees will witness first-hand the collective reaction of lawmakers to the new spending priorities.

In addition to passage of a budget, the Governor has publicly indicated on several occasions that he intends to focus on three large issues: transportation funding, broadband and the internet sales tax. Broadband has been a hotly debated topic at the Capitol for nearly a decade; however, most of the controversy has surrounded the role(s) of municipal electric utilities and existing private sector broadband providers. No significant legislation has passed, and pressure on lawmakers continues to increase to find solutions to the lack of adequate access to broadband in rural areas.

Meanwhile, both the Department of Economic and Community Development and the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations have conducted studies to gauge the extent of the problem. ECD’s study found that 34 percent of rural Tennesseans lack access to basic broadband services, and both studies concluded that electric cooperatives are well positioned to help solve the problem but face legal restrictions from doing so.

Governor Haslam convened an inter-agency task force to discuss the topic and heard presentations from many interested parties, including electric cooperatives. While the final language is not yet available, it is expected that the Governor will propose comprehensive legislation to the General Assembly for consideration this year. We expect this legislation will include repealing laws that currently prohibit electric cooperatives from offering broadband internet service.

This would be the most significant and far-reaching legislation involving electric cooperatives in decades. Other broadband bills, in addition to the one brought by the Administration, could be introduced by other members of the Legislature.

While the legislative process is always difficult to predict, there should be a number of other bills that are of interest to co-ops. Legislation concerning net metering and third-party solar financing are anticipated to return in 2017. Representative John Ragan (R-Oak Ridge), should re-file his bill to create a Tennessee Energy Policy Council. The Tennessee Municipal Electric Power Association is expected to again pursue changes that would require a public referendum in any instance of the sale of a municipal electric plant. We will be watching for any potential state-level reaction to Nashville’s passage of a “One-Touch Make Ready” ordinance (also called “Climb Once”) regarding the process for making new pole attachments.  Increased interest in small-cell technology by the wireless phone industry could result in pole-attachment related legislation.

TECA’s Government Affairs team is prepared and looking forward to working with co-ops across the state through what could be a history-making legislative session.

Call for Nominations: TCC Young Leaders Conference

Once again it’s time to choose your cooperative’s couples (or individuals) to attend the 2017 Tennessee Young Leaders Conference on Friday and Saturday, February 24 and 25, at the Drury Plaza Hotel in Franklin, Tennessee.  Please pass this information along as soon as possible to the person in your organization who is responsible for couple selection.

This highly regarded conference is a combined effort of the Tennessee Council of Cooperatives (TCC) and the Tennessee Farm Bureau Young Farmers & Ranchers organization.  Your TCC dues cover the conference registration fee, hotel room cost and cost of conference meals.  All information is available at tennesseecouncilofcoops.org. I would encourage you to review the exciting agenda which has been included with this announcement.  Once again, the 2017 YLC is lining up to be one of the most diversified events ever assembled by the TCC and we hope that you will send an outstanding couple or individual who will benefit and appreciate this unique educational opportunity.  And as an added bonus the host hotel is located at the Drury Plaza in Cool Springs / Franklin TN, an area that has something to offer everyone!

TCC’s annual conference provides cooperatives across the state a unique opportunity to educate its young leaders regarding the benefits of cooperatives.  Your council has worked hard to build a foundation of appreciation and support for existing cooperatives among conference participants.  Those attending the 2017 conference will be exposed to ideas and information that will enable them to add value to their own businesses, form new niche cooperatives with others in their communities, and meet the challenges of the future with cooperative marketing innovations.

More than ever, to be selected for this conference should be considered a true honor and opportunity for your participants.  We encourage you to carefully select attendees.  Sending outstanding people to this conference may be your single most important outreach activity to ensure that the cooperative way of doing business remains strong in the future.

Couple(s) or person(s) chosen should be:

  • under 50 years of age
  • interested member(s) of your cooperative
  • persons who will benefit from this educational experience

For attendees with young children, childcare will be provided during the meeting sessions.

Please select your representatives, complete a copy of the attached registration form in full and mail, e-mail, or fax it to the TCC’s Administrative Secretary-Treasurer Roberta Smith no later than Wednesday February 1, 2017.  We will need one registration form per couple or per single participant.  When we receive the completed registration forms, Roberta will make hotel registrations for the couple or person you have chosen.

If you have additional questions, do not hesitate to contact Roberta Smith at smithr@bledsoe.net or at the information listed on the registration form.

 

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TECA celebrates 75th anniversary at annual meeting in Nashville

Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association celebrates 75th anniversary at annual meeting in Nashville

NASHVILLE – “Unified” was the theme of the 75th annual meeting of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association, held Sunday, Nov. 20, through Tuesday, Nov. 22, in Nashville. More than 350 electric cooperative leaders from across the state attended the event, and were reminded that they best serve consumer-owners when co-ops work together for a common purpose.

“Anniversaries present the unique opportunity to examine our past,” says David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “The leaders who formed our co-ops and this association were visionaries, and their accomplishments merit our gratitude and celebration. TECA is using this occasion as an opportunity to refine our focus and prepare the association to meet the challenges of the next 75 years through the leadership, advocacy and support we provide.”

The first Dr. K. T. Hutchinson award was presented to Sen. Ken Yager in honor of his courageous support of electric cooperatives and rural Tennessee. Dr. Hutchinson was instrumental in the formation of electric co-ops in Tennessee in the 1940s and served as the first president of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association.

“Tennessee’s electric cooperatives have no better friend than Sen. Yager,” says Mike Knotts, vice president of government affairs for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “He is an enthusiastic supporter of rural Tennessee.”

During the meeting, elections were held for positions on the association’s board of trustees. Michael Watson, general manager of Duck River Electric Membership Corporation in Shelbyville; Larry Storie, a director for Volunteer Energy Cooperative in Decatur; and Steve Sanders, a director for Gibson Electric Membership Corporation in Trenton, were elected to four-year terms.

“Congratulations to those honored with leadership positions,” says Callis. “Their talents and ideas will be valuable as we continue our mission to serve Tennessee’s electric cooperatives and their members.”

The second annual TECA Top Tenn Communications Awards were presented during the event. Duck River Electric Membership Corporation received an award for Best External Newsletter or Magazine Section; Appalachian Electric Cooperative, Best Internal Newsletter; Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation, Best Website; and Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative, Best Use of Social Media. Gibson Electric Membership Corporation and Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation each received Awards of Excellence in the Wild Card category, with Duck River Electric Membership Corporation, Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative and Appalachian Electric Cooperative earning Wild Card Awards of Merit.

“It is important for electric cooperative consumer-owners to be educated and informed,” says Robin Conover, TECA’s vice president of communications and editor of The Tennessee Magazine. “We honor these winners for telling the electric cooperative story in a professional way across multiple platforms.”

The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association provides legislative and communication support for Tennessee’s 23 electric cooperatives and publishes The Tennessee Magazine, the state’s most widely circulated periodical. Visit tnelectric.org or tnmagazine.org to learn more.

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Tennessee crews to assist with Matthew restoration

Volunteer lineworkers from eight electric cooperatives to participate in restoration effort following massive hurricane

NASHVILLE – More than 80 electric cooperative lineworkers from Tennessee are heading to South Carolina and Florida to restore power to those affected by Hurricane Matthew.

“Eight electric cooperatives in Tennessee are sending personnel and equipment to Florida and South Carolina to assist electric cooperatives impacted by this massive storm,” said David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “We are proud of these volunteers who are leaving their families to help others in need. This will be hard, dangerous work in difficult conditions.”

Electric cooperative organizations across the Southeast began developing response plans earlier this week, and details have been adjusted as the exact path of the storm and the extent of the damage became more certain. This cooperation is enabled through mutual-aid agreements among electric cooperatives.

Crews will be assisting Berkley Electric Cooperative near Charleston, South Carolina, and Clay Electric Cooperative in Keystone Heights, Florida.

“One day, we will need help,” says Callis, “and when that tornado or ice storm arrives, we know that this assistance will be repaid. Cooperation is one of the founding principles of electric cooperatives. It is what makes us different from other utilities.”

The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association provides legislative and communication support for Tennessee’s 23 electric cooperatives and publishes The Tennessee Magazine, the state’s most widely circulated periodical. Visit tnelectric.org or tnmagazine.org to learn more.

 

Assisting Clay Electric Cooperative in Keystone Heights, Florida:

  • 11 lineworkers from Appalachian Electric Cooperative, New Market
  • 12 lineworkers from Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation, Clarksville
  • eight lineworkers from Duck River Electric Membership Corporation, Shelbyville
  • eight lineworkers from Fayetteville Public Utilities, Fayetteville
  • 12 lineworkers from Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation, Murfreesboro
  • 15 lineworkers from Upper Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation, Carthage

 

Assisting Berkley Electric Cooperative near Charleston, South Carolina:

  • 10 lineworkers from Plateau Electric Cooperative, Onieda
  • 11 lineworkers from Sequachee Valley Electric Cooperative, South Pittsburg