In May, more than 40 Iowa electric cooperative representatives went to Washington, D.C., to participate in the 2019 National Rural Electric Cooperative Association Legislative Conference. Together with more than 2,000 of their fellow cooperative representatives from across the nation, Iowa managers, directors and employees spent three days sharing the electric cooperative story with federal lawmakers.
Electric cooperative advocates talked with members and staff of Iowa’s Congressional Delegation, staff from the Executive Office of the President and USDA Under Secretary Bill Northey. Key conversation topics included protecting cooperatives’ not-for-profit status, rightsizing pension premiums, protecting Iowa’s power supply, and improving rural infrastructure and broadband access.
The group was well-received in every meeting, as evidenced through support voiced for several bills and issues by Iowa’s representatives and senators, underscoring the continuing success of Iowa’s electric cooperatives federal advocacy efforts. Four of Iowa’s conference participants shared their thoughts with Living with Energy in Iowa about why these legislative visits are important.
Jim Gossett, CEO, Raccoon Valley Electric Cooperative
Interacting with Iowa members, federal agencies and their key staff is the way the needs of our members are voiced in Washington, D.C. There’s no substitute for direct contact. Year after year, we see results in legislation and regulation by building and maintaining these relationships. When we can personalize an issue along with its impact on our members and what it means to those at the end of the line, policymakers in Washington take note.
Tim Marienau, CEO, Prairie Energy Cooperative
Having the opportunity to visit with our Iowa senators and representatives and have candid conversations gives electric cooperatives the chance to tell our story on the national issues that impact rural Iowa and our members. It’s vital that we maintain and build strong relationships with our Senators and House Representatives. By frequently engaging with lawmakers, they trust we have the best interests of our members – who are also their constituents – in mind when we share our concerns on the issues.
Hollee McCormick, Manager of Economic Development & Community Relations, Allamakee-Clayton Electric Cooperative, Inc.
Investing the time and resources to meet with our elected officials in Washington is time well spent for many reasons. We owe it to our legislators to explain, in our words, why topics are important to us and how they affect serving our members. Giving legislators real-life examples and painting a realistic picture – all the while sitting in their offices in D.C. – helps them understand things from our vantage point. Iowa’s electric cooperatives provide an essential service and are engaged in keeping rural Iowa vital. We need to tell these stories and emphasize our 80-plus-years of unwavering commitment to the people and places of Iowa.
Jon Miles, CEO, Pella Cooperative Electric Association
Building solid working relationships with our elected officials in Washington, D.C., is important in keeping the lights on back home while maintaining reliable and affordable electricity. It’s incumbent on electric cooperative representatives to effectively engage on matters that impact co-ops and the members we serve. We can be proud of the relationships we have built – based on honesty and trust – with our elected officials and their staff members. We take this role very seriously and understand that the sole purpose of attending these meetings is to represent the best interests of our members back home.