Month: March 2022

‘Co-ops Vote’ Boosts Voter Turnout in Rural Kentucky

Secretary of State partners with Kentucky’s electric cooperatives in non-partisan campaign 

Hoping to build on the increase of civic engagement in the areas they serve, Kentucky’s electric cooperatives launched their 2022 Co-ops Vote campaign at the Kentucky State Capitol on Wednesday. Secretary of State Michael Adams and about 100 high school students representing electric cooperatives across Kentucky kicked off this year’s non-partisan initiative.
Co-ops Vote began in 2016 with the goal of reversing a downward trend in rural voting. In both the 2016 and 2020 elections, voting in Kentucky’s rural counties increased. Following a bipartisan effort between Adams and Gov. Andy Beshear to help accommodate Kentucky’s election process to pandemic concerns, the General Assembly also worked across party lines to enact significant election reform endorsed by Adams and signed into law by Beshear. The reforms aim to make Kentucky’s elections more accessible and more secure.
“Kentucky’s electric cooperatives appreciate any effort that encourages voter participation in the communities we serve, and we are grateful to Sec. Adams for his partnership on Co-ops Vote,” said Chris Perry, president and CEO of Kentucky Electric Cooperatives. “Co-ops Vote is non-partisan and does not endorse any candidate. The consumer-members of rural electric cooperatives democratically elect their co-op boards, and it’s important their voices are also heard at the ballot box.”
In the 2020 election, Kentucky’s rural counties recorded a 61.9% voter turnout compared to a 60.8% voter turnout in metropolitan counties. The last time Kentucky voter turnout topped 50% in a mid-term election was in 1990, when 52.5% of registered voters cast a ballot.
Kentuckians can connect with elected leaders and stay informed on issues facing rural Kentucky on, a grassroots portal that links to Co-ops Vote resources. The deadline for Kentuckians to register for the May 17 primary election is April 18, 2022. The last day for Kentuckians to register for the November 8 General Election is October 11, 2022.
“I appreciate the continued efforts of Co-ops Vote to increase voter turnout in our rural communities,” said Sec. Adams. “Following the significant improvements in our election process over the past two years, it has never been easier to vote in Kentucky than it is today.”
This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the first Kentucky Rural Electric Youth Tour. Since 1972, the statewide association of Kentucky’s electric cooperatives has coordinated the youth tour to both Frankfort and Washington, D.C. Co-ops select rising young leaders in their service territories to gain a personal understanding of American history, civic affairs, and their role as citizens and members of electric cooperatives. Students will embark on the Washington Youth Tour in June.
Since its inception, co-ops have sponsored more than 1,600 Kentucky high school students in the youth tour program. Notable alumni include Sen. Paul Hornback and Rep. Samara Heavrin who addressed the youth tour delegates on Wednesday.


NRECA Asks Postal Service to Drop Rate Hikes in Light of Reform Act Relief

NRECA and other nonprofits are asking the U.S. Postal Service to abandon an unprecedented postage rate hike now that Congress has passed legislation to bolster the agency’s operations and provide financial relief.

The Postal Reform Act of 2022, which the Senate approved last week and President Joe Biden is expected to sign into law soon, was drafted to strengthen how the beleaguered service does business and ultimately save it money.

But the measure will not ease the record-high rates authorized last year or deter additional biannual postage increases.

“While this legislation will help shore up some of the Postal Service’s financial challenges, it does not provide immediate relief for electric co-ops and other postal users that face record rate increases in the coming years,” said Bobby Hamill, NRECA’s government relations director on this issue.

“NRECA continues to work with our Alliance of Nonprofit Mailers coalition in urging the Postal Service and the Postal Regulatory Commission to moderate the planned rate increases, particularly in light of the recent financial support provided by Congress.”

The Postal Regulatory Commission last August authorized nonprofit marketing mail rates to increase by an average of 7.8%. This included 5.7% for first-class letters, 10.4% for large envelopes, newsletters and magazines and 8.6% for parcels.

NRECA joined with the ANM to fight the new rates, and ANM joined a lawsuit against the commission for allowing the nonprofits’ postage rates to jump higher than current inflation.

However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled last November that the rate hike was within the commission’s authority under the 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act and that it satisfied the Administrative Procedure Act’s requirement of “reasoned decision-making.”

ANM Executive Director Stephen Kearney said that with a record $24 billion in cash and $107 billion in relief from Congress, the Postal Service does not require 6.8% to 8.8% rate hikes as authorized. USPS will file the level of its next rate increase with the commission in April.

“We and other mailer groups are now trying to convince the USPS to not use its full rate authority,” Kearney said. “Mailers are also being hit by other cost increases for paper, fuel and trucking that are driven by supply and demand.

“If USPS uses all the authority, it will lead to a second record set of increases in less than a year. USPS could and should defer its use of the full authority.”

Cathy Cash is a staff writer for NRECA

NRECA President Chris Christensen: ‘Collaboration Must Remain a Hallmark’ of Co-ops

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Continued collaboration among electric cooperatives will help all co-ops face the challenges of an uncertain future, NRECA President Chris Christensen told co-op leaders Tuesday at NRECA’s PowerXchange.

“It’s that diversity of experience that allows us to work together to tackle common challenges,” the Montana rancher and former teacher said. “Some are specific to the electric cooperative network. Others are consistent across the entire electric sector, and we can share common solutions just as broadly.”

That doesn’t mean there’s a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to co-ops, said Christensen, who serves as a director at NorVal Electric Cooperative in Glasgow, Montana.

“Our friends at Pedernales in Texas and their 872 employees are going to approach a common issue like a rate change differently than our newest NRECA member, Isle au Haut in Maine, which has one full-time employee,” he said.

“Nonetheless, we can and should continue to collaborate as much as possible—here in Nashville and after we’ve returned home. There are always experiences to learn from, and our commitment to collaboration must remain a hallmark of electric cooperatives.”

As NRECA’s president, Christensen has visited co-ops throughout the country and seen firsthand how they build on shared ideas. One example came when he told colleagues from other co-ops about NorVal’s requirement for directors to earn certain NRECA leadership credentials.

“In the weeks after I shared that experience, several colleagues shared with me that they not only put that idea into practice, but they built on it,” he said. “And some adjusted it to suit their specific needs, adding additional local learning opportunities or tying learning to rewards. Sharing our experiences and learning from each other, that’s the cooperative spirit that helps us face an uncertain future together.”

Attending PowerXchange and learning from one another is a way that leaders are “taking a proactive step for our co-ops.”

“Apply what you’ve learned here,” Christensen said. “Take ideas you get today back to your co-op and put them to good use. Continue to educate yourself and share your experiences with your fellow leaders back home.” 

Cooperation among co-ops is key to ensuring that leaders are taking action “to be successful for future generations for our members,” he said. 

“I say bring it on. Our co-ops are smart, capable and stronger when we work together.”

Author: Erin Kelly

Matheson: Electric Co-ops Help ‘Keep Our Communities Moving Forward’

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—NRECA CEO Jim Matheson welcomed more than 5,000 attendees to the 2022 PowerXchange with a message lauding electric cooperatives’ reputation and accomplishments as well as their aspiration to move their communities forward.

“That’s what I respect most about the work you do,” Matheson said at the March 7 general session. “And it’s my motivation to keep improving—to keep searching for ways we can be better.”

Matheson noted that electric co-ops are viewed as a trusted source by Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill about where their communities stand, and he discussed how NRECA has worked to fortify that reputation. 

NRECA is using more effective ways to reach elected officials, including digital and social media tools, modernizing its grassroots outreach, and creating stronger connections between members of Congress and the electric co-op communities they were elected to represent, Matheson said. 

“We’ve actually tested the results and measured our progress. We know these efforts are paying dividends for NRECA and for you,” he said. “Today, our reputation in Washington is more durable than ever.

“When policymakers look at every other organization in the energy industry, they see a partisan set of special interests. They see a friend or a foe, based on their politics. But when they look at America’s electric cooperatives, they see communities. They see people. They see you. As a result, in Washington D.C., we stand out,” he said.

Matheson outlined four co-op values he highlights when meeting with policymakers: 

• Co-ops strengthen communities through innovation and member support.
• Co-ops provide essential services such as broadband where no one else will.
• Co-ops provide reliable service from a resilient system.
• Co-ops accelerate the advancement of technology in rural America.

“This is our job at NRECA,” Matheson added, “to help create the foundation so you can do your best work to serve your members. To be a voice for the good you represent and the possibilities you create in your community.

“We always say the electric co-op is about serving the member at the end of the line,” he said. “But when you challenge yourself … and aspire to a larger purpose and a greater good, the thing about the end of the line becomes the fact that you never really get there. There’s always something more we can do to keep our communities moving forward.”

Author: Cathy Cash