CEO’s Message – March 2022

Legislative Session Opens

According to the Minnesota Rural Electric Association (MREA), the 2022 legislative session is going to be “a wild one.” MREA is working on several legislative priorities, two of which could greatly impact Stearns Electric Association. This month, I want to give you an overview of MREA and Stearns Electric’s involvement, and a preview of those top legislative priorities. 

The Minnesota Rural Electric Association (MREA) is the Minnesota statewide organization that represents all 50 electric cooperatives throughout the state of Minnesota. I work very closely with MREA, attending monthly meetings, voicing concerns and even lobbying at the state Capitol when needed. Additionally, District 2 Director Arlyn Lawrenz serves as the board liaison to the MREA Political Action Committee.

Through feedback from electric cooperatives, MREA has outlined its three areas of focus: safety, education and training, and government affairs. As far as government affairs goes, MREA represents the legislative and regulatory interests of all Minnesota electric cooperatives. This allows co-ops to maintain a unified message across the state and move the needle on issues that are most important to cooperatives and the energy industry.

This legislative session, MREA is focused on seven issues, two of which we will be keeping an especially close eye on at Stearns Electric: property tax on distribution infrastructure and permits on load control receivers. Both of these issues could have significant impacts on our Cooperative.

The Minnesota Department of Revenue (DOR) has begun to reinterpret a 1939 statute that grants electric cooperatives an exemption from personal property tax for “attachments and appurtenances” to a co-op’s distribution system outside of incorporated areas. These are things like meters and streetlights.

The DOR recently started to require a handful of co-ops to start paying property tax on these items, which has never been done before. This includes Stearns Electric. We have been working diligently to reverse this reinterpretation and will continue to do so throughout the legislative session with the support and assistance of MREA.

As technology ages, Stearns Electric, along with all Minnesota electric cooperatives, are working on changing out current load control radio receivers with new demand response units. More electrical work is needed to change out these new units, including rewiring. Though we have certified electricians employed at the Co-op to perform these change outs, per its guidelines, the Minnesota Deptartment of Labor and Industry still requires permit inspections for the change out of each new unit. This increases both the cost and difficulty of the project.

Though progress has been made on the original cost and permit inspection requirements for these units, Stearns Electric continues to partner with MREA and other Minnesota cooperatives to work on acquiring an exemption for these permits.

Electric cooperatives were founded in the United States Government, and we continue to value the legislative and regulatory work elected officials complete each year. Cooperatives continue to band together on behalf of our membership and speak up on issues that impact our industry when necessary.


Robin C. Doege