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NRECA’s Legislative Conference returns to an in-person format in May as electric cooperative leaders gather in the nation’s capital to meet with lawmakers and advocate for co-op priorities.
“There is no stronger advocacy tool than our members’ voices,” said Hill Thomas, NRECA’s vice president of legislative affairs. “They know the most about what’s going on in their communities, and members of Congress care the most about their opinions because they are their constituents. When our members can be in Washington and speak with one voice, we can really move mountains.”
The conference will be held May 1-5 at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill, and co-op leaders interested in attending can register on cooperative.com. To receive special rates on hotel rooms through NRECA, members must book soon—by Wednesday, March 30.
The conference was virtual last year and was canceled in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. As cases have declined, Washington, D.C., has ended its indoor vaccination and mask mandates.
“Every week that goes by with COVID-19 trending the right way, things are opening up more and more on the Hill and elsewhere in the city,” Thomas said. “We’re optimistic that our members are going to have a good, productive experience while they’re here.”
On May 2, conference participants will hear from NRECA CEO Jim Matheson, NRECA President Chris Christensen and Louis Finkel, NRECA’s senior vice president of government relations. Guest speakers from Congress and the Biden administration are also being scheduled.
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who has championed causes crucial to co-ops and their consumer-members, will receive NRECA’s Distinguished Service Award.
In 2019, as electric co-ops faced the catastrophic loss of their tax-exempt status, Portman helped pass the bipartisan RURAL Act to stop that from happening. His efforts helped save co-ops tens of millions of dollars a year and prevented electric bills from rising for co-op members.
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As a member of the Senate Finance Committee, Portman also helped spearhead passage of the SECURE Act, which saved co-ops millions of dollars in pension insurance premiums paid to the federal government.
Portman announced in January that he will retire in January 2023 after 12 years each in the Senate and House. His career also included serving as U.S. trade representative and as director of the Office of Management and Budget under former president George W. Bush.
After a day of presentations, co-op leaders—along with leaders of their statewide associations and NRECA staff members—will travel to Capitol Hill to meet with lawmakers Tuesday through Thursday.
“In the same way that it’s important for members of Congress to hear what our members think about what’s going on in their communities, I think it’s important for our members to see and hear firsthand what’s going on in Washington,” Thomas said. “This direct advocacy by our members is the most important part of the Legislative Conference.”