ACRE Owners Contribute to Political Wins

Published by Bob Hance on Tuesday, May 5, 2020 in Community

There’s nothing like a global pandemic to quiet a contentious political primary season.

As we draw closer to November’s national elections, I’m certain the political infighting will rise to disturbing new levels. However, wherever you fall on the political spectrum – Republican, Democrat, or somewhere in between – we all play an important role in the process.

Strong political relationships are key in our industry. We rely on our elected representatives and other federal officials to help establish policy and implement legislation that benefits our customers. We spent years knocking on doors at the Federal Communications Commission, and ultimately became easily recognized and greeted on a first-name basis within those hallowed halls. Those relationships, I’m certain, ultimately helped lead to the sweeping changes in broadband funding and policy.

Late in 2019 Congress passed and President Trump signed the RURAL Act into law. For two years, our national association and cooperative leaders across the country lobbied for these changes that protect our nation’s electric cooperatives from the risk of losing their tax-exempt status when they accept government grants for disaster relief, broadband service, and other programs that benefit co-op customers. This was a huge and important victory for co-ops and the customers we serve.

At the state level, we had a couple of huge wins in late February when Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed House Bills 4266 and 5266 into law. Both make it easier for electric co-ops to bring high-speed broadband access to their customers with new language related to use of electric easements and consistent standards for pole attachments.

These kinds of changes don’t happen without a lot of hard work and tough conversations, and it all starts by having strong relationships with our state and federal representatives on both sides of the aisle.

Another tool in our collective kit is the Action Committee for Rural Electrification (ACRE). This is the political action committee for electric cooperative directors, eligible employees, and customers, and the goal is to advocate for responsible policies at the state and federal level. An ACRE membership contribution helps create a favorable political environment for electric co-ops through strategic relationships with legislators who represent us and those we are here to serve.

In the 1930s, nine out of ten rural homes didn’t have electricity while nine out of ten urban homes did. This disparity led farmers and other rural dwellers across the nation to enlist the help of their legislators to create the national electric cooperative program. That spirit continues today through the ACRE Owners program, which gives us a voice in important matters that impact our customers. More than 30,000 cooperative customers and advocates across the country contribute to ACRE, and it makes a difference.

If you’re interested in learning more about ACRE Owners and how you might be involved, please visit teammidwest.com/acre.

About The Author

Bob Hance

Bob Hance is the President/CEO of Midwest Energy & Communications, and a 45-year veteran of the electric cooperative industry. Within the industry he has earned a reputation as a leader and a trailblazer, and has been nationally recognized for his efforts to bridge the digital divide as a tir

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