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Co-op Leaders Pitch Issues to State Lawmakers

February 3, 2017

Sports analogies were fitting when more than 220 electric co-op leaders joined industry and legislative experts from across Texas in Austin to compare notes and strategize before talking with state lawmakers about concerns early in the 85th legislative session.

"It's kind of like the early first quarter of a football game or the first inning of a baseball game," said Eric Craven, Texas Electric Cooperative's senior vice president of government relations and legal affairs. "We're just going to start to plant the seeds on a few issues."

The TEC Legislative Rally united the group in late January so co-op leaders could meet with their representatives at the Capitol and lay the foundation for addressing legislative issues affecting co-ops that could arise during the session.

TEC's Government Relations Department arranged 23 Senate appointments, and many co-op leaders organized their own meetings with House representatives. With tax revenue decreasing in Texas, the state's budget holds the focus of most in the House and Senate.

"They're not saying a lot about electricity right now," Craven said.

Even so, attendees addressed with lawmakers four areas of concern for co-ops, including the biennial issues of eminent domain and grid security. New for this session were matters of small cellular pole attachments and transmission service rate cases.

On some issues, co-ops want to know that they're being included in the conversation, especially when it comes to high-dollar infrastructure discussions such as talks of grid hardening.

"We want to know the cost, and we want to know that we're not involved in some big bureaucracy," Craven said.

First-term Sen. Bryan Hughes of Mineola recognized the need for co-ops and lawmakers to work together as a team.

"We work for a lot of the same people," he said.