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Tennessee electric cooperatives visit D.C. lawmakers

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – Members from Tennessee’s electric cooperatives visited with Tennessee’s Congressional delegation on Thursday, June 23, in Washington, D.C. They joined more than 40 co-op leaders from across the state in the nation’s capital to discuss issues important to co-ops and co-op members.

“Elected representatives make decisions and pass laws that have serious consequences for Tennessee’s electric cooperatives and their members,” says David Callis, executive vice president of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “It is important that we tell the electric cooperative story and inform Members of Congress of the impact of proposed legislation.”

Co-op members discussed environmental and power supply issues with Members of Congress during their visits. “It is important that we communicate with how legislation affects rates and reliability for everyday Tennesseans,” says Callis.

The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association is a trade group representing the interests of Tennessee’s 23 electric distribution cooperatives and the 1.1 million consumers they serve. The association publishes The Tennessee Magazine and provides legislative and support services to Tennessee’s electric cooperatives.

 

Members take co-op message to legislators

NASHVILLE – More than 250 members and employees from Tennessee’s electric cooperatives were in Nashville on Monday and Tuesday, March 7 and 8, for the 2016 Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association’s Legislative Conference. Attendees met with their legislators on Capitol Hill to help them better understand electric cooperatives and the issues that impact rural and suburban Tennessee.

House Speaker Beth Harwell welcomed the group to Nashville. “You serve 71 percent of our state and 2.5 million Tennesseans,” she said. “We recognize the impact you have on our state.”

Tennessee’s electric cooperatives maintain a visible presence in Nashville and Washington, D.C., to protect the interests of co-op members. “We are here to give a voice to rural Tennesseans,” says David Callis, CEO of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association.

“Legislators consider bills that have serious consequences for co-ops and the communities they serve. We must tell the electric cooperative story and educate lawmakers about the impact of proposed legislation,” says Callis. Attendees reminded legislators that co-ops are not-for-profit, member-owned and –regulated private businesses that impact rural and suburban Tennessee in many ways.

Visits focused on specific legislation that impacts co-ops and the communities they serve. Co-op leaders expressed support for a bill that allows electric co-ops to provide broadband Internet service. “We serve the areas with the greatest need for broadband,” says Mike Knotts, Vice President of Government Affairs for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “We have a role to play in bringing high-speed connectivity to rural Tennessee.” Co-ops also voiced their support of legislation that modernizes the tax code for co-ops and discussed the impact of the recent Supreme Court decision to halt implementation of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan.

“Educated and informed legislators are necessary for us to provide low-cost, reliable power, and our members make a powerful impression when they come to Nashville,” says Knotts. More than 100 legislative visits were made during the conference, and dozens of legislators from across the state attended a reception honoring members of the Tennessee General Assembly.

2016 Legislative Outlook

On January 12, elected representatives from all across Tennessee made their way to the state capitol in Nashville to begin the second session of the 109th General Assembly. Both the House and the Senate began their work drafting, debating, and voting upon new laws for our state. The general consensus is that year’s legislative session will be fast-paced, as both the Speaker of the House and the Lieutenant Governor have indicated they hope to adjourn in early April – which would be the earliest adjournment in many, many years.

The legislature is likely to grabble with some issues of large consequence. Over the past year, Governor Haslam has begun a conversation about the inability of the state’s road building fund to keep up with the need to build and maintain the road system. The gasoline tax along with increasingly unreliable federal funding, is the primary method which the state funds its road program. While it is unlikely that an increase in the tax will pass this year, other sources of funding will be explored and debated. Disagreements between counties and cities over the distribution of sales tax revenue will likely result in legislation being offered, which is sure to result in spirited debate. And some are predicting that a proposal to  provide public funding for students to attend private schools may have the support become law this year.

TECA will be monitoring these issues closely to determine if any proposals have negative impacts upon electric cooperatives and our duty to provide reliable, low-cost energy to our member-owners. Specifically, we will be working with legislative leaders as they consider Tennessee’s response to the Clean Power Plan. Finalized late last year, the Federal mandate now requires each state to develop a compliance plan. This plan will be prepared by the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, and TECA will be working closely with TVA and other stakeholders to ensure that the concerns of rural and suburban Tennesseans are paramount in the development of the plan.

To stay better informed of TECA’s work on behalf of Tennessee’s co-ops make sure you subscribe to “View from the Hill,” our newsletter about legislative activities. To sign up, click here.

Mike Knotts serves as director of government affairs for the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association.

Co-op members take powerful message to D.C.

NASHVILLE – Members from the state’s rural electric cooperatives spent Thursday, April 29, in Washington, D.C., meeting with Tennessee’s Congressional delegation.

“Elected representatives make decisions and pass laws that have serious consequences for Tennessee’s electric cooperatives and their members,” says David Callis, executive vice president of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “It is important that we tell the electric cooperative story and inform Members of Congress of the impact of proposed legislation.”

“Educating our representatives about co-ops – who we are and what we do – is an important part of our mission to provide affordable and reliable energy to our members,” says Tommy Whittaker, a director with Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation and one of more than 40 co-op members who traveled to Washington, D.C. “These visits help them clearly understand the issues that concern co-ops and co-op members.”

Co-op members discussed environmental and power-supply issues with Members of Congress during their visits. “It is important that we communicate with how legislation affects rates and reliability for everyday Tennesseans,” says Callis.

A second group of Tennessee co-op representatives traveled to Washington, D.C., on Monday and Tuesday, May 4 and 5, to meet with Senator Corker and participate in the NRECA Legislative Conference.

Scheduling conflicts made it necessary to stretch the meetings out over two weeks.

Co-op members deliver power message

More than 250 members and employees from Tennessee’s electric cooperatives were in Nashville on Monday and Tuesday, Feb. 9 and 10, for the 2015 Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association Legislative Conference. Attendees met with their legislators on Capitol Hill to help them better understand electric cooperatives and the issues that impact rural and suburban Tennessee.

Tennessee’s electric cooperatives maintain a visible presence in Nashville and Washington, D.C., to be certain that the interests of co-op members are protected. “We are here to represent rural Tennesseans,” says David Callis, general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association.

“Our legislators make decisions and pass laws that can have serious consequences for Tennessee’s electric cooperatives and the members that rely on them. It is important that we tell the electric cooperative story and inform and educate legislators on the impacts of proposed legislation.” Attendees reminded legislators that co-ops are not-for-profit, member-owned and –regulated private businesses that impact their communities in many ways.

The primary goal during visits with representatives was to share an opinion by Tennessee’s Attorney General stating that the Tennessee Valley Authority’s regulatory authority extends to pole attachment rates, effectively ending years of debate at the Capitol on a contentious issue. Representatives were asked to support legislation that will limit co-op liability in cases of inverse condemnation. Co-op members also encouraged representatives to back a resolution supporting TVA’s license application to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for Watts Bar Unit 2.

More than 100 visits were made with members of the House and Senate during the conference. “We discussed important topics that will impact every members’ wallet,” says Mike Knotts, director of government affairs with TECA. “Educated and informed legislators are a key component of low-cost, reliable power, and our members make a powerful impression when they come to Nashville.”

 

By the people, for the people

“… this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

— Gettysburg Address, Abraham Lincoln, Nov. 19, 1863

Like you, I first read the Gettysburg Address in grade school. Over the years, I have so often associated it with optimism and determination because of the strength and power of its final phrase. Its brevity leads us to examine each and every word. And what richness of meaning these words provide. I wish I had memorized it like my father did; to this day, he can still recite its entire text.

So it’s sometimes hard to fathom that this immortal speech was given at what was most certainly a very solemn affair: the dedication of a cemetery. It was given, too, at a time when the future of the United States of America was very much in doubt. The souls interred to their resting places had endured awful carnage at the hands of their fellow Americans. No one knew how the Civil War might end. But I believe this last phrase of the speech stands today as a stark reminder of what defines our country’s very special place in this world.

Given that we live in a country that is governed “by the people, for the people,” I thought I would introduce you to just a few of your fellow Tennesseans who have just begun their first days at the Capitol in Nashville. There are 23 of these newly elected state senators and representatives, many of whom will significantly impact your life and the future of rural and suburban Tennessee.

Senator Paul Bailey — While Sen. Bailey may not be new to the legislature (he was a one-year appointed member of the House while he completed the term of longtime co-op friend Charles Curtiss), he is new to the Senate. The owner of small trucking company based in Sparta, Sen. Bailey has already brought attention and new ideas to the problem of how to pay for highway projects during a time of declining federal funding for road work. He frequently speaks on issues important to rural Tennessee.

Senator Ed Jackson — Living in the town that shares his last name, Sen. Jackson will quickly become a key player in the politics of rural West Tennessee. His district stretches from the crossroads of Jackson all the way to the Missouri border in Lake County.

Senator Kerry Roberts — Members of Cumberland Electric Membership Corporation were previously represented by Sen. Roberts, a certified public accountant and farmer, but after the effects of the 2010 census altered the district, he was elected again and now makes his return to Nashville. His new district now includes the northern portions of Meriwether Lewis Electric Cooperative’s service area.

Senator Jeff Yarbro — The phrase “big shoes to fill” certainly applies in this case. Senator Yarbro is replacing Douglas Henry, who first served in the Tennessee House of Representatives in 1954 and was known as a consummate gentleman and legislative powerhouse during his many years of service. Senator Yarbro is an attorney from Nashville. His abilities to advocate will quickly be put to the test, as he is already the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate; however, Democrats hold only five of 33 total seats, a historic low.

Representative David “Coach” Byrd — A well-known basketball coach and high school principal from Wayne County, Coach Byrd will ensure the House of Representatives continues to have a Republican member with the moniker of “Coach” (Dennis “Coach” Roach was defeated in a close primary last fall). Perhaps he will retain his whistle and detention roster when he arrives to the sometimes unruly goings-on of the Legislature?

Representative Kevin Dunlap — Representative Dunlap will quickly become a go-to member of the Legislature on education issues because, in addition to being a fifth-generation farmer, he will be the only member of the General Assembly who is a current and active school teacher.

Representative Dan Howell — Known by many in the Chattanooga area because of his former career as a television broadcaster, Rep. Howell had more recently served as deputy to the Bradley County mayor.

Representative Sabi (Doc) Kumar — Over the past several years, the ranks of the state Senate have swelled to include as many doctors and pharmacists as lawyers. Not to be outdone, Dr. Kumar (a surgeon from Springfield) joins the House representing a district that is largely rural. His experience as a practicing physician, inventor, business owner and staple (and sometimes stapler!) of the community should be unique among his peers.

Representative Leigh Wilburn — At 31, Rep. Wilburn may be the youngest member of the General Assembly, but the same drive that pushed her to earn two graduate degrees and start her own real estate law practice makes her one to watch. Her southwest Tennessee district grows cotton and is home to the best named town in America — Finger.

The power of policy impacts our members

It seems you can’t turn on a TV, listen to the radio or pick up a newspaper without hearing about ineffectiveness in government. It often seems that no matter what we do or who we vote for, we don’t feel truly represented in either our state or national governments.

Tennessee’s electric cooperatives understand how that feels, and we have been there ourselves. That feeling, along with a strong desire to take action, is the reason why we have dedicated staff that works to ensure our members’ interests are represented, and heard, by elected officials.

Members of our government relations and policy teams work tirelessly to tackle complicated regulatory and policy issues. They apply these issues to the ever-changing energy market and then evaluate how those issues impact our communities. They have a deep understanding of the needs of the communities we serve, and they use that knowledge to ensure that your needs are represented in major legislative decision-making.

The ability to impact change is a huge part of being a member of an electric co-op. We don’t lobby elected officials on behalf of investors with the aim to increase profit margins. We work with elected officials to make sure that your interests are being considered to ensure that you will always be provided with safe, reliable and affordable electric service. That is the cooperative difference.

But it isn’t just our government relations team that helps us affect policy and legislative change. Your voice makes a huge difference in how quickly and effectively we can drive change. Through our grassroots advocacy programs we encourage you to bring your ideas to the table and to make your voice heard. This is how we show state and national officials that we are acting in your best interest. Your collective voice shows that we represent communities and families, not corporate interests.

The next time you are feeling frustrated, the next time you want to be heard or the next time you want to make a change in your community, call your local power company. Find out what we are doing to represent your interests, and find out how you can help affect change in our communities.

Meghaan Evans writes on consumer and cooperative affairs for the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the Arlington, Va.-based service arm of the nation’s 900-plus consumer-owned, not-for-profit electric cooperatives.

Perkerson joins TECA staff

NASHVILLE, Tenn., Aug. 26, 2014 – The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association, a trade group representing the interests of electric cooperative members across the state, announced today that Alex Perkerson joins the association as government affairs specialist. In this role, Perkerson will assist with the association’s legislative and grassroots efforts.

“Tennessee’s electric cooperatives work to inform and protect their members,” says Perkerson. “It is exciting to be a part of their mission to serve the people of rural and suburban Tennessee.”

A 2011 graduate of the University of Alabama with a degree in political science, Perkerson previously worked as a legislative assistant at the Tennessee General Assembly.

“We are thrilled to add Alex to our team,” says Mike Knotts, director of government affairs for TECA. “I am confident that she will make positive contributions on behalf of our members.”

About TECA

The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association is a trade group representing the interests of Tennessee’s 23 electric distribution cooperatives and the 1.1 million consumers they serve. The association publishes The Tennessee Magazine and provides legislative and support services to Tennessee’s electric cooperatives.

A high-resolution photo is available here.

Taking the co-op message to DC

More than 100 Tennesseans joined more than 2,500 co-op leaders from across the nation to participate in the NRECA Legislative Conference on May 4-6 in Washington, D.C. The conference provided CEOs, directors and co-op staffers with insights from Washington insiders and briefings from NRECA lobbyists to use during meetings with lawmakers.

Tennessee co-op leaders met with Senators Alexander and Corker as well as Representatives Black, Blackburn, DesJarlais, Duncan, Fincher, Fleischmann and Roe.

A number of issues important to electric co-ops were discussed during the legislative visits, including

“People will know that Co-op Nation is here,” NRECA CEO Jo Ann Emerson said at the first conference session May 5 at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill. “You do this because you know how important relationships are with your legislators and with your regulatory officials.”

View photos from the legislative conference here.

Legislative Conference brings co-ops to Nashville

More than 180 directors and employees from Tennessee’s electric cooperatives were in Nashville April 1 and 2 for the 2013 Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association Legislative Conference. Attendees met with their legislators on Capitol Hill to help them better understand electric cooperatives and the issues that impact them.

U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn also addressed the group, discussing in detail how the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is overstepping its boundaries and stifling job creation. “The EPA audits businesses looking for ways to fine them,” said Blackburn. “Their attitude is not helpful, and that is not what the Federal government is supposed to do.”

Tennessee’s electric cooperatives maintain an active presence in Nashville and Washington, D.C., to be certain that the interests of co-op members are protected. “Electric cooperatives are not-for-profit, member-owned and -regulated and accountable to their communities. These are important distinctions that legislators must understand,” says David Callis, general manager of the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association. “The decisions made by legislators can have enormous effects on our members’ electric bills, so our job is to inform and educate them on the impacts of proposed legislation.”

Most issues affecting co-ops this year revolve around local control. “We believe that our members are best served when local decisions are made by local board members elected to run the cooperative,” says Mike Knotts, director of government affairs with TECA. “We are concerned when legislation limits a board’s ability to act in the best interests of its members.”

“Educated and informed legislators are a key component of low-cost, reliable power in Tennessee,” says Knotts. “Co-op members make a powerful impression when they come to meet with their legislators.”

More than 90 legislative visits were made during the conference, and 63 house and senate members attended the co-ops’ legislative reception.