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 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.
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 consumers 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.
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.
Once in a Decade: Census Leads to Redistricting
Congressional and legislative representation is one of the primary reasons why Americans are asked to participate in the census every 10 years. By law, districts must be roughly equal to population. Population growth is uneven, so, after each census, congressional districts are redrawn.
How many people in a district?
Indiana’s population in 2010 was almost 6.5 million according to that year’s census. The Census Bureau estimated in 2018, Indiana’s population had grown to nearly 6.7 million. The Indiana Business Research Center’s population projections expected Indiana to surpass 6.7 million residents by 2020.
Data shows population declines in northwest and southwest Indiana and concentrated growth around some metro areas, such as Indianapolis and Fort Wayne. This will require adjustments to the congressional districts and state legislative districts so each Hoosier will be represented equally.
Your electric cooperative is continuing to monitor redistricting efforts to ensure Indiana’s electric cooperatives are well represented and protected throughout the state.
The Fight Over Public Health Emergencies
The Indiana Legislature passed Senate Bill 5 obliging local health leaders to consult with other officials before enacting certain health measures. The bill created a structure to ensure health departments get OKs from county or city bodies before stricter measures are enacted.
Gov. Holcomb vetoed the bill, but the legislature voted to override the veto. The final Senate vote count was 36 to 10 in favor of the override. The final House vote count was 59 to 30 in favor of the override. The bill went into effect immediately, so all local mandates are now null and void unless a local governing body takes action to re-enact them.