BY KEVIN CONDON
As the second session of the 88th Iowa General Assembly commences in mid-January, it serves as an opportunity to reinforce our cooperative spirit as we advocate for policies at the Statehouse. While there are many shared values among Iowa’s electric co-ops, there is also diversity in our ranks. As we chart a course for our legislative goals, we must speak with one voice to ensure success. Showing Iowa’s lawmakers the power of our cooperative commitment is much easier when we approach the Capitol with a unified message.
At the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives (IAEC), we nurture a cohesive voice through a robust process designed to engage our grassroots at the various levels of our policy development. Just as our friends from Schoolhouse Rock reminded us, knowledge is power, and thus, communication about what happens under the Golden Dome is critical.
As the session begins, we provide weekly (sometimes daily) updates to our member cooperatives through emails, our Legislative Action newsletter and video messages to ensure our members are informed of the most current details and developments in legislation.
We gather with our members and their legislators in Des Moines on the first Tuesday of the session to “Welcome Back” lawmakers to the State Capitol. Later in January, IAEC’s board members visit with legislative leaders, and many electric co-ops will visit the Statehouse throughout the session to discuss issues of importance with their local legislators. In March, we again show our strength when more than 250 electric co-op advocates ascend to Iowa’s Capitol for our annual “Day on the Hill” event.
The state’s coffers remained full, with a nearly $290 million surplus last year, so it is reasonable to expect lengthy discussions about the budget, the state’s spending priorities, and perhaps even the tax code that collects the revenue. Amid the annual debates on things like education and healthcare, Iowa’s electric co-ops will again share our unified message of promoting legislation that allows for safe, reliable and affordable electric service provided in an environmentally responsible manner.
IAEC will support bills that allow utilities to fairly charge rates that cover costs of service, as well as legislation that gives local Iowans the ability to make decisions about their energy future. We will promote legislative efforts that help strengthen the cooperatives’ culture of safety by focusing on responsible management of easements and rights-of-way and proper education of those who perform work near power lines.
Leaders from our member cooperatives have developed these messages through a lengthy process that began shortly after the 2019 session adjourned last May. The IAEC Government Relations Committee met at the end of October, and the board of directors approved the policy agenda at the November meeting. Member cooperatives informed their local legislators about our goals over the final two months of 2019. We are excited to be back at work in 2020 with a consistent, thoughtful, committed and unified voice of Iowa’s electric cooperatives.
Kevin Condon is the director of government relations for the Iowa Association of Electric Cooperatives.