Rep. Tom O’Halleran represents one of the biggest congressional districts by landmass in the nation, serving residents in rural areas of northern and eastern Arizona in a sprawling 59,000-square-mile region that touches or includes every electric cooperative in the state.
With 13 co-ops all around him, the Democratic congressman has quickly become a champion for co-op members and has been honored for his legislative efforts by the Grand Canyon State Electric Cooperative Association.
“Since getting elected to Congress in 2016 representing Arizona’s 1st Congressional District, Rep. O’Halleran has been a staunch supporter of the rural electric cooperatives,” says Dave Lock, CEO of the statewide association.
O’Halleran is the lead House sponsor of NRECA’s top legislative priority for this session of Congress: the Flexible Financing for Rural America Act. NRECA estimates the bill would save co-ops more than $10 billion by allowing them to refinance their Rural Utilities Service loans at current low interest rates without being hit with prepayment penalties.
O’Halleran, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, says it’s “crucial that we address the needs of our long-overlooked rural communities, which too often encounter barriers in accessing quality, affordable utilities.”
“Our Flexible Financing for Rural America Act will extend a lifeline to hundreds of electric cooperatives serving rural families and businesses,” he said as he introduced the latest version of the bill in March.
The congressman is working with Republican Rep. Vicky Hartzler of Missouri to try to get the legislation included in any big infrastructure package that Congress takes up this year. It’s just the latest example of his willingness to work in a bipartisan way to support legislation that helps co-ops, Lock says.
In 2019, the statewide association honored O’Halleran as the “Arizona Electric Cooperative Champion” of the year “in recognition of your countless efforts to protect and advance our mission of service.”
In addition to his successful legislative efforts, the congressman visits Arizona co-ops regularly and meets with co-op leaders and Youth Tour students in the district and in Washington, D.C.
“We applaud Rep. O’Halleran for his leadership, bipartisanship and his continued commitment to advance the interests of the rural communities we serve across Arizona,” Lock says.
The congressman says rural America’s basic needs “have been left on the backburner for years.”
“In fact, many rural and tribal communities in our district had not been given the tools needed to fully recover from the Great Recession before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, closing businesses and cutting jobs nationwide,” O’Halleran says. “But, throughout these unprecedented times, rural electric utility and telecommunications providers worked around the clock to keep families across America connected to telehealth, education, and loved ones, ensuring the affordable, effective delivery of services that many in rural areas take for granted. I am proud to work to assist Arizona co-ops in any way that I can and vow to continue to listen, learn and advocate for what is needed next.”