Broadband Accessibility Act moves through General Assembly

The Legislature continues its work for this year’s session, and is beginning to make some headway in considering the thousands of pieces of Legislation that have been filed. Some committees are beginning the process of ending their work for the year, which typically signals the beginning of the end for the General Assembly. Over the next week or two, the number of bills will shrink considerably and the work required to develop a budget for the State will take priority. Adjournment for the year is expected at the end of April.

This year, TECA is working to influence over 60 different pieces of legislation. First among our priorities is Governor Haslam’s bill to address the lack of high-speed internet access, the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act. This legislation is the culmination of two years worth of study and consideration by the Governor, his staff, and multiple state agencies. Following the conclusions of these studies, Governor Haslam and his administration developed a piece of legislation that would do three things: allow electric cooperative to become retail providers of broadband services, provide financial incentives (through grants and tax credits) for providers to extend service into unserved areas, and improve adoption of broadband service through educational efforts. The original version of the legislation was changed slightly, through an amendment, prepared by the Governor and his staff. This amendment broadened cooperative authorization to included television and video services, and restricted the provision of co-op internet and TV to the co-op’s service territory.

Both the Senate Commerce Committee and the House Business and Utilities Committee have heard the legislation, and have both voted unanimously to pass it. In general, these are the most difficult hurdles for any piece of legislation to overcome.  In the coming weeks, the bill will be considered by both the House and Senate Finance Committees before they could be heard by the full House and Senate. It is TECA’s expectation that the bill will ultimately pass, and will become law upon the Governor’s signature. If you have not had the opportunity to communicate with your own lawmaker, please visit takeactiontn.com and send a message to let your lawmaker know your feelings.

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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.’”

 

Broadband Accessibility Act passes Senate Commerce and Labor Committee

NASHVILLE – The Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act passed the the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee today on an unanimous vote. Leader Norris and Sen. Mike Bell presented the bill on behalf of the Governor Haslam. The bill was passed with an amendment that would allow electric co-ops to provide television and phone service in addition to high-speed internet.

The bill and an identical amendment was passed by the House Business and Utilities Subcommittee on Tuesday, March 7.

The bill is scheduled to be heard in the full House Business and Utilities Committee next week.

You can learn more about the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act and encourage your legislator to support this important bill at takeactionTN.com.

 

Co-ops applaud House Business and Utilities Subcommittee for passage of Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act

NASHVILLE – Members of the House Business and Utilities Subcommittee today passed the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act (H.B. 0529) on a unanimous vote. The legislation now moves on to the full committee for consideration on Wednesday, March 15.

“The Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act is an important step to expand access to high-speed internet in rural Tennessee,” says David Callis, executive vice president and general manager for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “This legislation will not only help areas with the greatest need for high-speed internet, but it will also create jobs and improve access to education and healthcare.”

“We thank Rep. David Hawk for his sponsorship and the committee for supporting this legislation and 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 which live in areas served by electric co-ops, do not have access to high-speed internet.

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

Storms impact Tennessee co-ops

NASHVILLE – Storms that moved through the volunteer state overnight left more than 10,000 co-op members without power. Crews are working to restore service to all co-op members affected.

Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation

Fewer than 500, down from near 10,000 earlier today.

Forked Deer Electric Cooperative

Six distribution poles down, and one transmission pole down. Wide spread outages.

Gibson Electric Membership Corporation

82 outages impacting 4,700 meters

Middle Tennessee Electric Membership Corporation

More than 5,000 members without power.

 

Electric co-ops sponsor delegates to TCC Young Leaders Conference

More than 300 young people from across the state gathered at the 2017 Young Leaders Conference held Feb. 24 and 25 at the Drury Plaza Hotel in Franklin. The annual conference brings couples and individuals together from rural communities to learn about cooperatives, share their views about agriculture and discuss current issues facing rural Americans. The agenda is targeted to rural Tennesseans 50 years old or younger.

The Tennessee Council of Cooperatives (TCC) co-sponsors the annual conference with Tennessee Farm Bureau Federation’s Young Farmers and Ranchers organization.

Electric cooperatives from across the state sponsor delegates to attend the event. “It is important to tell the co-op story,” says Todd Blocker, vice president of member relations and president of the Tennessee Council of Cooperatives for 2017. “This generation of young people are already leaders in their communities. The information and experiences they gain at the Young Leaders Conference can make them powerful co-op advocates.”

This year’s event began with a guided tour of the State Capitol. Breakout sessions covered a variety of subjects aimed at educating leaders about cooperatives and agricultural issues and strengthening their leadership skills. During “Getting Started” by Peyton Fair with Farm Credit Mid-America, attendees learned how to better analyze their farm finances. The Tennessee Department of Agriculture’s Corinne Gould led a session on “Speaking Up,” and Alice Rhea of Farmers Services discussed “Keeping it Real.” House Speaker Beth Harwell gave the keynote address, and humorist and motivational speaker Lisa Smartt provided entertainment.

Blocker named President of Tennessee Council of Cooperatives

Todd Blocker, vice president of member relations

The Tennessee Council of Cooperatives, a non-profit organization established to promote the cooperative way of business across the state, recently named Todd Blocker, TECA vice president of member services, as president for 2017.

The TCC functions as the state’s flagship organization for coordinating, promoting, educating and extending cooperative development in Tennessee. TCC often serves as a clearing house for the open exchange of information and experiences among cooperative businesses; as a sounding board for new ideas; and as a forum for discovery, discussion, and dissemination.

“Whether it be farming, communications or energy, co-ops have unique opportunities to serve the people of Tennessee,” says Blocker. “The Tennessee Council of Cooperatives tells the story of Tennessee’s co-ops, and it is an honor to be a part of an organization that has such an important mission.”

“We congratulate Todd on his appointment,” said David Callis, TECA executive vice president and general manager. “I appreciate Todd’s passion for co-ops and am confident he will provide the TCC with sound direction and represent Tennessee’s electric cooperatives with honor.”

Blocker was appointed at the TCC’s Young Leaders Conference held on Feb. 24-25 in Nashville.

Co-op Statement on election of Howorth as TVA Chair

[NASHVILLE] –The Tennessee Valley Authority announced today that Richard Howorth was named chair-elect of the board of directors. Howorth will follow Lynn Evans as chair when her board term expires in May.

“Richard Howorth has a great deal of experience at both TVA and at the distribution level,” says David Callis, executive vice president and general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “TVA and distribution utilities are complex businesses, and we believe that experience is critical. We are confident that Mr. Howorth’s small-town background will help TVA serve co-ops in an effective way. We congratulate him on his election.”

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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TVA directors Lynn Evans, center, and Richard Howorth, right, address co-op leaders during the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association’s annual meeting in Nashville on Tuesday, Nov. 22, 2016.

 

Trent Scott | Vice President of Corporate Strategy
Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association
tscott@tnelectric.org | 731.608.1519

Co-ops support Governor’s Broadband Accessibility Act

[NASHVILLE] – Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association CEO David Callis issued the following statement on the introduction of HB 0529 and SB 1215 earlier this week.

“Rural and suburban Tennessee have a great need for expanded high speed internet access, and electric co-ops are pleased to see the introduction of legislation this week that would allow co-ops to provide broadband to our members. We appreciate Sen. Mark Norris and Rep. David Hawk for sponsoring bills in their respective chambers, and we encourage members of the General Assembly to support this important legislation.”

Co-ops members are encouraged to visit takeactionTN.com to send a message to their legislators to encourage them to support the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act.

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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Trent Scott | Vice President of Corporate Strategy
Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association
tscott@tnelectric.org | 731.608.1519

State of the State address highlights role co-ops play in rural broadband

NASHVILLE – Tennessee’s 23 electric cooperatives listened to the Governor’s State of the State address on Monday, Jan. 30, with interest as he outlined the Tennessee Broadband Accessibility Act. 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 that 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. “This proposal would create new opportunities for education, healthcare and commerce in our communities. We look forward to working with the Governor and the General Assembly to increase connectivity across rural and suburban Tennessee.”

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.

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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Photo via Gov. Haslam Flickr