Rural Missouri - May 2012 - (Page 5)

Hart to Heart Reigniting a passion for the program lenn English, CEO of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, is a dynamic speaker who has the ability to rally the troops. Speaking before 8,000 electric cooperative leaders at the association’s annual meeting, he issued a call for stronger grassroots involvement. For the members of the Missouri electric cooperatives in the audience, English was preaching to the choir. Our grassroots team in Missouri often serves as the “poster child” for successful political action on legislation affecting your electric cooperative. When cap-and-trade legislation was being debated in Washington, D.C., Missouri led the nation in contacts made to lawmakers as we successfully fought to protect your affordable and reliable electricity. But, as English pointed out, we need to go beyond even that magnificent effort to protect members in the coming years. A key battle in the fight for affordable electricity is expected if Congress reopens the Clean Air Act. The Clean Air Act was passed 40 years ago. The act did a lot to improve the environment. But it has become so complicated with new rules layered upon old rules, and new court interpretations on top of old court decisions, that it is in need of a significant G by Barry Hart bhart@amec.coop modernization and simplification. Most electric co-op leaders believe the Clean Air Act needs to be completely rewritten. In doing so, our president and Congress need to first agree on energy goals for the future. Then they need to work with the people who will be meeting those future energy goals in order to provide sufficient flexibility for electricity producers to meet our nation’s energy and environmental needs. The danger in reopening the law was immediately apparent to English and others who will be major players in this debate. There are special interest groups whose sole purpose in life seems to be raising electric bills in the name of environmental activism. We’ve already seen the effects of this philosophy. Recently, without any public debate or congressional action, bureaucrats at the Environmental Protection Agency issued rules that will effectively kill any new coal-fired power plants in the U.S. They did this by requiring technology on new power plants that is not commercially available now and which may not be for years to come. The United States has a 200-year supply of low-sulfur coal, so this strikes a big blow to efforts aimed at increasing energy independence. Even the cleanest and newest coal plants in the country never would have been permitted under these new rules. This year, we have been taking a look back at the early days of rural electrification as many electric cooperatives reach their 75th anniversary. One constant at every electric co-op in the early days was the willingness to fight for the program against “We need to reignite the passion for the program those pioneers had 75 years ago if we are to be successful in the months ahead.” Barry Hart those who believed rural people should remain second-class citizens. We need to reignite the passion for the program those pioneers had 75 years ago if we are to be successful in the months ahead. As English put it, “There is no bigger impact you can have on the electric bills for the future than to become engaged in this fight.” This month, 65 representatives from electric co-ops in Missouri will travel with me to our nation’s capital for a historic grassroots summit. We will hear how we can best involve Missouri’s 650,000 electric co-op members to make sure your voices are heard. We won’t ask you to make the trip, but we may call on you for support as we work to develop a rural grassroots army. Those of you who got involved in the “Our Energy Our Future” grassroots effort that was successful on the cap-and-trade debate could receive an e-mail about future threats to your co-op. Please make sure your contact information is up to date at your electric co-op, and be ready to answer the call. Attend your annual meetings to stay involved and hear about issues affecting the goal of keeping electricity affordable and reliable. We will do our best to keep you informed in future issues of Rural Missouri. Hart is the executive vice president of the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives. Guest Column A reform for the people e’ve all seen ballots where a simple question is asked. But recently, a troubling trend has emerged. Special interest groups are putting controversial questions on ballots in an effort to advance a particular idea or cause. This is an attempt to change state laws in a manner that would help these groups, mislead voters and circumnavigate elected leaders who represent the constituents of our state. In Missouri, the process of creating initiative and referendum petitions was once citizen-driven and quite honorable. Missourians who wished to have an issue voted on by the people had to gather enough legitimate signatures to advance their cause onto a ballot. But nowadays, the process has become tainted by special interest groups with loads of out-of-state cash that bombard the public with misleading advertising and have been accused of buying signatures to promote their causes. A recent effort by the Humane Society of the United States, known W by Sen. Mike Parson as the “Your Vote Counts” campaign, sought to make it more difficult for Missouri lawmakers to revamp or overturn laws created by voterapproved initiatives. The proposal would have changed our state’s constitution by requiring a threequarters supermajority of the legislature to amend, or change, voter-approved initiatives. What troubled me about this proposal is the fact that a threequarters vote is a higher threshold than our constitution requires for lawmakers to override a veto by the governor and would have no precedent in Missouri law. If passed, this would have opened the door for millions of out-of-state dollars to be poured into Missouri and put dozens of special interest groups’ initiative petitions on the ballots. I am sponsoring legislation that would modify laws relating to the initiative and referendum petition process in Missouri. Senate Bill 817 would reform the petition process in several key areas by creating a class one election offense for those who sign false signatures and requiring the secretary of state to inform the public of who sub- “The process to get a question on the ballot in Missouri should be honorable and for the people, not for out-of-state groups with loads of cash.” Mike Parson MAY 2012 mitted the petition, along with the full and correct text as required by law to qualify for circulation. The measure would also decrease the amount of time for the secretary of state to approve or reject the form of a petition from 30 days to 15 days, require the Joint Committee on Legislative Research to hold an informal public hearing regarding any petition within 30 days of the certification process and disqualify anyone who has been found guilty of forgery from being a petition circulator. We don’t want Missouri’s elections to become like California’s, where voters are bombarded with special interest ballot questions in every election. The process to get a question on the ballot in Missouri should be honorable and for the people, not for outof-state groups with loads of cash. We should consider ourselves lucky that here in Missouri we have another outlet to make our voices heard. We need to protect this right as outlined in our state constitution and not let this process get out of hand. Parson lives in Bolivar and represents the 26th District in the Missouri Senate. 5

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Rural Missouri - May 2012

Rural Missouri - May 2012
Table of Contents
Comments
Columns
Moonshine mystique
Missouri snapshots contest
Curbing copper theft
Outdoors
Out of the Way Eats
The mandolin man
Knight for hire
Hearth and Home
The kid with the electric car
News Briefs
Around Missouri
Marketplace
Neighbors
Just4Kids

Rural Missouri - May 2012

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