Electric cooperatives were out in force on 2022 Legislative Day, as representatives of co-ops from across Virginia converged on the state capital to advocate for policies that will benefit their members.
About 65 cooperative directors, managers and key staffers worked the halls of the temporary General Assembly building in Richmond on Jan. 25. The visits were important not just to educate veteran and new lawmakers on issues of importance, but to bring the cooperative message at a time of divided government.
“We’re really pleased with the turnout and the reception that our cooperative leaders received under somewhat trying conditions,” said Brian Mosier, president and CEO of the VMD Association.
Between pandemic considerations and the fact the legislature is working in cramped quarters while its building is undergoing remodeling, Mosier said cooperative representatives did an excellent job communicating key themes with members of the House of Delegates and Senate.
For example, leaders from Rappahannock Electric Cooperative and Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative, as well as Northern Neck Electric Cooperative, spent time with Del. Todd Gilbert, who is the new speaker of the Republican-controlled house.
Participants spoke to legislators about a bill to expand access to solar energy in cooperative territories. Del. Chris Head of Roanoke is the patron of HB 266 while Sen. Lynwood Lewis of Accomac is patron of the Senate bill, SB 505.
A second measure would provide $5 million in each year of the fiscal 2023-24 biennium to advance a rural electric vehicle charging network. At least three charging stations would be built in each cooperative’s territory in conjunction with key tourism routes. The request is a budget amendment; if enacted, co-ops would work with the Department of Housing and Community Development and the Virginia Tourism Corp. to implement the grant program.
Legislative Day participants also heard from Virginia political savant Bob Holsworth, managing partner of DecideSmart and a longtime political scientist at Virginia Commonwealth University. Holsworth noted that Virginians should be in for an interesting time with Republicans controlling the House and all three statewide offices, while Democrats control the Senate.
He also urged co-op leaders to keep an eye on redistricting in 2022 because it may force some legislators to run to new districts or consider retirement. “Some of your legislators are now in different places, so you’ll have to think about that in the long run,” Holsworth said.