Planting Good Ideas

Mike Knotts, director of government affairs

Believe it or not, spring planting season will soon be upon us. I try each year to add an item or two to my home’s landscaping. I was not blessed with a particularly green thumb, though, so it usually ends miserably. But this year is different and much more important. Because of some drainage problems, I was forced to regrade my entire lawn last fall, which included removing every single living shrub, flower or plant around my house.

So I find myself asking for advice. What can I plant that is attractive, inexpensive, hearty and requires the absolute least amount of maintenance? When is the proper time to plant? I know that if you plant too early, you run the risk of a late frost wiping out all the new seedlings. If you wait too long, the plants won’t have time to take root and be prepared to weather the hot Tennessee summer. Experienced gardeners know that without enough time and care to build a strong grassroots system, these new plants will never survive.

Good ideas aren’t really that much different. If a new proposal is presented too early, it may get lost in the shuffle. If you lobby for an idea that no one knows about — even something that would help all Tennesseans — it will wilt and die. If an idea is presented too late, all the good intentions in the world can’t catch up to Father Time.

So how do great ideas thrive? They need good timing, awareness and the action of those that can make it happen.

Part of your local electric cooperative’s mission is to make sure you have affordable, reliable and safe electricity. And because our industry is so complex, government plays an important role in that mission. Sometimes state or federal laws threaten this, however, so we lobby hard on your behalf. But without your support — and, more importantly, your voice — our ideas may not reach the right ears.

That is why in the December 2012 issue of this magazine, I asked you to consider getting more involved in helping us keep your electric rates low. To the thousands of you who responded by going to www.ourenergy.coop and signing up, thank you very much. We will do our best to keep you informed with timely information. If you have not had the time to do so, signing up only takes a minute or two. And the time is right, as Tennessee’s General Assembly has just returned to take up its work and make important decisions for our state.

This year, the legislature has an important decision to make that could have an impact on your electric bill for years to come. And much like the situation in my yard, this year’s legislative session and its impact on your electric cooperative will be different and very important.

As you have read in these pages over the years, we have fought efforts that would increase your electric bill or make it more difficult to deliver reliable power to your home or office. For instance, most of the poles along the roadside in your community are owned by your electric cooperative. Those poles may have many other lines attached to them, which could carry telephone, cable or other utilities. The electric cooperative board of directors, elected by you, is responsible for deciding how much each attaching utility should pay for its fair share of the pole. However, some would like to see the state government intervene in hopes of lowering their fees.

While a discussion about pole attachments may not carry the same type of front-page appeal as issues like the income tax or “guns in bars,” the potential impact to Tennesseans is very real. Last year, the bill introduced would have caused $15 million in higher electric rates all across the state. So we have always asked the members of the legislature to say “no” to these requests, and, with very few exceptions, Tennessee’s elected officials have agreed.

This year, however, there is an opportunity to support a lasting solution to this perennial debate — a solution that protects attaching companies from any potential abuse and provides the ability to go to court if things really go wrong. And this solution protects the most important special-interest group — you, the owner of your cooperative.

In the coming weeks, we will be asking our elected officials to say “YES” to this honest, genuine compromise. The timing is right, and we are doing our best to make Tennesseans aware of the complex nature of these relationships and how they can be improved. What is the last ingredient to make this great idea thrive? Your action.

And as for my landscaping, let’s hope I stick to politics and get some good advice!

Visit tnelectric.org/issues to find out how you can help us. Or call 615-515-5522.

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