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Electric Co-ops Engage State Policymakers Through Co-ops Vote Activities

 As leaders in the communities they serve, Kansas electric cooperatives continue to engage their consumer-members and policymakers through Co-ops Vote, a non-partisan campaign focused on boosting voter turnout in areas served by cooperatives and educating voters and policymakers on issues important to rural Kansans. 
As part of this year’s Co-ops Vote activities, Prairie Land Electric Cooperative hosted Kansas legislators and local officials at their Norton office on Wednesday, June 5, to discuss topics related to the delivery of affordable and reliable electricity in rural areas. 
“It’s critical for us to have an opportunity like this to have someone one-on-one time with the people who make decisions in the legislature and local government so they are aware of the issues that are most critical to the members of Prairie Land Electric,” said Chuck Look, Prairie Land CEO. “We are involved in several local communities, but state issues are most critical and we need to have a voice in that process. This gives us a really great opportunity to do that.”
Special guests in attendance were Representative Ken Rahjes, Senator Rick Billinger and Norton County Commissioner Richard Thompson.
“One of the things I learned is the high level of concern there is with the rate study and what kind of implications are we going to have on our rural electric cooperatives. One size doesn’t fit all,” said Sen. Billinger. “I represent five electric cooperatives and I like to come meet the folks. There are a lot of new folks I get to meet and find out what the concerns are for each individual cooperative because they’re all unique and they all have little things that are different in the way they operate.”
Staff of Kansas Electric Cooperatives, Inc., who helped coordinate the event, discussed issues including lack of access to high-speed, reliable broadband; renewable generation; retail wheeling; transmission and generation build out; and utility rate making for non-profit electric co-ops. KEC staff also outlined the economic impact electric co-ops have on their communities and the United States: supporting nearly 612,000 American jobs and contributing $440 billion in U.S. Gross Domestic Product between 2013 and 2017, or $88 billion annually. In 2017 alone, electric cooperatives generated $22.5 billion in federal, state and local taxes.
“One of the biggest things to take back are the key issues from the Kansas rural electric cooperatives, and as we look at different bills that are proposed, what their ideas are, and also the general raw impact that our rural electric cooperatives have on the economy of the state,” said Rep. Rahjes. “To me, it’s a non-partisan issue. We have to do our best to make sure our economy is strong, whether you’re eastern Kansas or western Kansas. These groups are so important, they are some of the leaders in our communities so it’s very important to hear what their thinking is. This comes from the grassroots, these ideas come from the board members that are elected by the members, that’s why it’s so important.”
Kansas electric cooperatives are deeply committed to providing affordable and reliable electricity to their consumer-members and empowering the communities they serve. This means being more than just an electricity provider; it means being a partner in economic development and other activities that improve the lives of their members. KEC and its member electric cooperatives will continue to initiate dialogue with Kansas policymakers through future Co-ops Vote activities for the benefit of the consumer-members they serve.