Electric co-ops tackle a challenging legislative session

This year’s legislative session was marked by many challenges − and many successes.

It was unlike any other as the House of Representatives held a session in the Government Center, not the Statehouse. Legislators and lobbyists weren’t able to walk the Statehouse hallways together, and simple, important conversations were more difficult to arrange.

Despite these challenges, Indiana’s electric cooperatives had several gains.

 

Broadband

Four bills were passed this session encouraging broadband projects and developments. Additionally, $250 million was incorporated in the budget for the broadband projects. We are looking forward to the potential funding opportunities for Indiana’s electric cooperatives’ deployment efforts as we seek to increase service to rural Hoosiers across the state.

 

Battery Storage Sales Tax Exemption

Cooperatives are always searching for the best ways to serve their consumers and keep energy safe, reliable and affordable. Battery storage is a cutting-edge technology that several cooperatives are exploring to save their consumer’s money and encourage economic development. The tax bill included language that exempts utility-scale battery storage systems from sales tax, thus saving cooperatives who engage in these projects millions of dollars.

 

Pole Attachments

One piece of legislation that could have had a much more detrimental impact on Indiana electric cooperatives and their consumers had to do with pole attachments. But, the electric cooperatives were able to negotiate a more favorable outcome.

 

At the start of the legislative session, cable providers filed bills that would have mandated electric cooperatives to charge them the FCC rate when they attached cable to the co-ops’ poles. This would have put electric cooperatives like yours under FCC jurisdiction and lowered the for-profit cable providers’ financial responsibility. However, we were able to successfully negotiate a more favorable solution: removal of the FCC language and an increase in the attacher’s responsibility (7.41% to 12.5%). Language was also added that grandfathers in existing contracts and sets a fine for unauthorized attachments.

 

The legislative session concluded with a “final dead bills day” April 22. The legislature recessed rather than adjourned so lawmakers can call themselves back into session later in 2021 to redistrict.