By Kevin Condon
As the calendar flips to a new year, so too begins a new Congress and Iowa General Assembly. Those of us who live and breathe politics and public policy have been preparing for the new year and the debates that will happen in our state and federal capitol buildings.
While Iowa doesn’t have defined term limits in place for elected officials, legislators retire from service in one of two ways – by their own choice or by the voters. The November 2018 election yielded a little bit of both as Iowa will have two new members of Congress and 29 new legislators out of 150 state house and senate positions.
A 33 percent turnover in our federal delegation and a nearly 20 percent turnover at the Statehouse is an opportunity for Iowa’s electric co-ops. We can educate these newly elected officials about how we power lives and empower communities. Some new officials might not know the similarities and differences that exist between electric co-ops, municipal utilities and investor-owned utilities.
The grassroots arm of Iowa’s electric cooperatives is the Iowa Rural Power program. Through this program, we work to engage employees and members of electric co-ops to reach out to legislators on issues that are important to them. We begin our work when Iowa’s General Assembly begins by bringing co-op advocates together with legislators for a “Welcome Back” reception. At various times, individual electric co-ops also travel to the State Capitol to meet with their legislators to discuss priorities.
Also, scores of Iowa Rural Power advocates will make the journey back to Des Moines for our annual REC Day on the Hill event to discuss issues and share information about how rural electric cooperatives (RECs) are investing in their communities.
At the federal level, in addition to seeing our iconic green Rural Power shirts in the crowd at hometown forums, the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives takes 40-50 advocates to Washington, D.C., in the spring as part of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association’s annual legislative conference. Before Mother’s Day rolls around, Iowa’s electric co-op advocates will have reached out to their elected officials many times.
As state legislators prepare to return to the Capitol or be sworn-in for the first time, Iowa’s electric co-ops will be there greeting them and making sure that they understand the cooperative principles we stand for and the investments we’ve made in our regional communities. We all have a responsibility to ensure our elected leaders are informed and aware of how their decisions impact electric co-ops and their member-owners. Candidates for office worked hard to earn your vote in November, and our civic duty shouldn’t end on Election Day. In this new year, let’s all resolve to stay informed and engaged while we advocate on behalf of the cooperative family.
Kevin Condon is the director of government relations for the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives.