Working with local legislators

“All politics is local.” This observation by the late Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill, Jr., former Speaker of the House of Representatives, means that even national politics have a local impact, and people care most about issues that directly affect them. Indirectly, this famous adage underscores the importance and value of local politics.

Illinois’ electric cooperatives think it’s critical to develop and cultivate relationships with local legislators because they craft, introduce and vote on legislation that impacts the local business climate, the environment and quality of life for their communities. That’s why they work closely with local elected officials. After all, their purpose is to provide safe, reliable, affordable energy, but their mission is to help communities thrive.

Our state’s electric cooperatives are local businesses that power economic development and prosperity for the region. Cooperatives have deep roots in their communities and listen closely to members to better understand their needs. Leadership, board members and employees live and work in the communities they serve.

They strive to be advocates for their communities, ensuring that local legislators know, understand and act on issues important to their area.

Providing industry guidance and expertise

As a practical matter, co-ops recognize that most legislators are “generalists,” yet they vote on a wide range of issues. Their expertise may not include the changing energy industry, which is why cooperatives provide guidance and expertise from subject matter experts who’ve been in the energy industry for many years.

Today’s energy landscape is an increasingly complex topic covering not only the traditional engineering and vegetation management aspects of the industry, but also encompasses technology, cybersecurity, the electrification of the transportation sector and more.

Illinois cooperative experts provide briefings and backgrounders to legislators, committees and staff, and offer expert testimony for hearings and other legislative or regulatory meetings or gatherings. Being involved in economic development and knowing local community leaders helps provide insight on how issues and policies under discussion might impact their region.

Co-op as a convener

In addition, Illinois’ co-ops periodically invite legislators and their staff to the co-op for tours so they can see first-hand how they operate and can view operations centers, substations, and solar installations. Prairie Power, Inc., Springfield, invited legislators to tour their solar farms at Spoon River Electric Cooperative, Canton, and Shelby Electric Cooperative, Shelbyville. When breaking ground on projects using Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant (REDLG) funds, local legislators are often in attendance.

Representing your best interests

Your co-op strives to be a trusted resource on energy issues. Because of its deep roots in the community, they have a firm understanding of local issues and needs and continue looking after the long-term interests of consumer-members. This means they cultivate and foster positive, productive relationships with legislators who know and trust them, because they are advocating on behalf of the communities they serve.

Illinois’ electric cooperatives are proud to power your life and bring good things to the community. Please continue to advise your cooperative on matters of importance so they can continue to advocate on your behalf and improve the quality of life for all.

Photo: State Representative Brad Halbrook (center) met with Josh Shallenberger, Shelby Electric Cooperative president/CEO (left) and Robert Reynolds, Prairie Power, Inc. senior vice president – member and business development about issues vital to electric cooperatives.