56th Legislative Session presents challenges

Chris Meyers
General Manager
Oklahoma Association of
Electric Cooperatives

The first session of the 56th Oklahoma Legislature concluded May 26, 2017. The session—which began on February 6, 2017—brought unique challenges with more than one third of Oklahoma’s legislators beginning as freshmen. Thirty-two of the 101 House members —or 32 percent—were new. In the Senate, 21 of the 48 Senators—or 44 percent—were freshmen. The large turnover alone presents challenges, but this session also brought eight resignations, three from the Senate and five from the House. Collectively, the resignations and members who will term limit in 2018 (12 from the House and 6 from the Senate) will bring more change to the Oklahoma Legislature. 

Electric cooperatives stand ready to educate new members on our unique role of powering rural Oklahoma. Throughout the session, we diligently worked on behalf of the 550,000-plus consumers of Oklahoma’s electric cooperatives. We helped legislators understand the full impact of proposed legislation and how it might affect end consumers. This session was no different. There were several House bills and Senate bills that had the potential to adversely impact electric cooperatives and our member-owners. Through diligent work, cooperation with legislators and other utilities, we were successful in protecting the interests of rural electric cooperatives and their member-owners.

One item of particular concern for legislators was the revenue shortfall of $900 million. While the legislature introduced new bills replacing the term “tax” with “fee” and passed budget measures, many believe the process utilized to pass the budget is likely to be challenged in court. The constitution mandates all revenue-generating legislation pass the House of Representatives with no less than 76 votes of approval; this session, the budget passed by simple majority. On June 7, 2017 a lawsuit was filed challenging the proposed state budget. The budget concerns as well as the large turnover and resignations have added to the complexity and challenges of this session. 

Regardless of the outcomes, you can be assured your electric cooperative will continue to work on your behalf in our commitment to provide safe, affordable and reliable electricity to you, our valued member. OKL Article End

 

Celebrating our independence

Gary McCune
President
Oklahoma Association of
Electric Cooperatives

Every July, we take time to reflect on our nation’s history and remember how the actions of a few helped shape the quality of life we enjoy today. As I contemplate on the sacrifices of those who fought for this nation we call home, I’m reminded of the rich history of the rural electrification movement. The visionary pioneers who banded together to bring electric power to farms and ranches in rural America were part of the ‘Greatest Generation.’ 

They survived the Great Depression and fought in World War II to keep our country safe and free. This generation had just started the rural electrification program when they were called to duty for the protection of our nation’s freedoms and independence. When they returned home they found no rest; instead, they rolled up their sleeves and proceeded to build the distribution lines that electrified the rural areas of our nation. Their hard work and dedication paved the way for farmers and rural families to enjoy a better quality of life while allowing smaller communities to thrive.

Aside from President Franklin Roosevelt’s promise of federal aid in the form of low-interest loans and engineering expertise, rural Americans didn’t have much help in bringing electricity to their homes. They pulled themselves up by their proverbial bootstraps and did it themselves. This independence not only tends to inspire cooperatives; it’s a guiding principle. The Fourth Cooperative Principle, “Autonomy and Independence” states that cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members. When co-ops enter into agreements with other organizations, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control by their members and maintain their cooperative autonomy.

Today, and every day, we celebrate this independence and the legacy of those who came before us. This Fourth of July, as we think about the future of electric cooperatives and how we will continue to shape our country and our society, Oklahoma’s electric cooperatives remember what it took to bring power to our communities and let the determination of those who came before us, guide us.