Protecting Our Members Through Advocacy

Protecting Our Members Through Advocacy
By Steve Foss, CEO

I was asked a question the other day, one I get asked often. “Why do you even pay attention to what is going on in Topeka? It’s not like we can change anything, or that they listen to us anyway.”

I disagree with that last statement. We can impact change by being engaged and take an active role in communicating and educating those who represent us at all levels of government about issues that are important to us. We can all provide information to our representatives on how regulations or new or revised laws impact our daily lives.

We are blessed to have involved legislators in Topeka that represent the members of FreeState Electric Cooperative. We may not always agree with policies, but I can tell you that I have had positive and constructive dialogue with most of our representation. I can tell you that they want input, they want information, and they want constituents to communicate with them. We elect them, and they do represent us, so we should take some responsibility in guiding their decision making.

If you think about that, it is a lot like the cooperative model. You elect a board of directors, and they make decisions on your behalf with input from members. The cooperative needs guidance to serve you, our owners, in the best way possible. Our members are our priority and we work to protect you from legislation and regulations that would negatively impact the cooperative, and our members. It works the same way in your local community, county, Topeka or Washington.

We have taken initiative to discuss environmental issues, taxation proposals, coal generation, Rural Utilities Services (RUS) loan programs, economic development, and recently we defended a push for retail wheeling in Kansas that would have been detrimental to the Kansas energy industry by driving up the cost of business and in turn, the cost to provide service to you. In addition, FreeState has hosted our legislators on multiple occasions to discuss issues impacting our members, and we’ve even held forums to meet candidates during the last election cycle.

Some might call what we do lobbying, but it is much more than that. It’s grassroots legislative advocacy. We work closely with our statewide organization, Kansas Electric Cooperatives (KEC) to follow and track legislation that will impact our members or the cooperative. We reach out to our legislators, and we provide information to those elected officials in the form of written letters, emails, and face-to-face meetings.

Legislation advocacy is more than going to the statehouse and meeting with our legislators, it’s taking an active role in protecting our members by educating and communicating with decision makers. We stand up for our cooperative, and the member-owners we serve.