Legislative Issues Concern Co-op Members

Photo portrait of Dave MarkhamWe must constantly monitor the rules, regulations and laws affecting Central Electric to protect the affordability and reliability of your electric service. With the Oregon Legislature now in session, it is peak season for CEC and the rest of Oregon’s electric co­ops tracking changes that impact electric co­op members.

The following bills are of key concern at this point of the session:

Senate Bill 301 would eliminate employers’ ability to disci­pline employees—or screen prospective employees—for mari­juana use during nonwork hours. This puts us at odds with fed­eral law that treats marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug. As holders of commercial driver licenses, our crews must comply with federal drug use regulations. We also have concerns about safety—extremely important for a workforce with everyday exposure to high ­voltage electricity and heavy equipment.

Franchise fees, levied by local governments on utilities for the use of transpor­tation corridors, are always a hot topic. We strongly support Senate Bill 840 capping city franchise fees at 5 percent—a level some cities have worked to exceed. The cap prevents municipalities from increasingly turning to utility consumers as a revenue source. A different franchise fee-­related bill demanding our opposition is House Bill 2362. It would allow counties to also charge franchise fees. We believe this is an unjus­tified attempt to reach into our members’ wallets to fund local government.

Oregon strongly promotes renewable energy development. To make it more affordable for our members who agree, CEC supports an effort to make community solar participants eligible for state tax incentives. Currently, community solar partici­pants have no access to tax incentives. State and federal tax incentives are available to people who own their own solar energy systems, and for­-profit community solar developers receive federal tax incentives. This lowers prices for their participants, but the benefit is not available to CEC because we and other cooperatives are not­for­-profit businesses. We want to make our community solar members eligible for Oregon tax incentives under the Residential Energy Tax Credit program—the same program that flows incentives to rooftop solar system owners.

These are the most prominent of a number of legislative actions that could affect electric co­op members. If you join the ORECA­-Action Network, we will keep you apprised of these and other key issues. By signing up at www.oreca­-action.org, we will not only keep you informed, we may on occasion call on you for help when we need decision-­makers to hear your voice. It is through our unified efforts we can best pro­tect your interests as a co­op member.


Dave Markham
President and CEO