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January Spotlight

Co-ops rural electrification trip to Bolivia rescheduled

Volunteers from five of Alabama’s rural electric cooperatives were originally scheduled to travel to Challapata, Bolivia, in the fall to bring power to about 60 households that have never had electricity.

Due to political unrest and uncertainty about potential transportation disruptions, executives with National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA)’s international affiliate, NRECA International, decided to postpone the trip. 

The political and security situation is now stable, and the volunteers from Alabama are again getting ready to travel to the rural, mountainous area of southwest Bolivia. The team plans to leave in late January and return in early February. 

NRECA International works with cooperatives to bring electricity to people in developing countries, and has worked with the Alabama Rural Electric Association (AREA), which publishes Alabama Living, on this project. Look for more about the project in an upcoming issue.


RURAL Act passage will help electric cooperatives

The U.S. House passed the RURAL Act just before Christmas, protecting more than 900 electric cooperatives throughout the nation from the risk of losing their tax-exempt status when they accept government grants for disaster relief, broadband service and other programs that benefit co-op members.

 As of press time, the U.S. Senate was poised to pass the bill, and President Trump is expected to sign it into law.

 U.S. Reps. Terri Sewell, D-Alabama, and Adrian Smith, R-Nebraska, were the lead sponsors of the RURAL Act, which had wide bipartisan support. Lawmakers passed the popular legislation in the final hours of the 2019 session as part of a larger tax and spending bill that funds the government through September 2020.

 “I serve communities across Alabama’s Black Belt that face persistent poverty,” Sewell said in an interview this fall with electric.coop. “They depend on these rural electric cooperatives for reliable electricity and broadband service, and they are particularly vulnerable to anything that would increase price. These are basic necessities.

 “The tax-exempt status of the co-ops really ensures that these families get the critical services that they need.”

 The bill’s passage fixes a problem created in 2017 when Congress passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which redefined government grants to co-ops as income rather than capital. That change made it difficult for many co-ops to abide by the 15% limit on non-member income to keep their tax-exempt status. The RURAL Act once again exempts grants from being counted as income and is retroactive to the 2018 tax year.

 Without the fix, some co-ops would have had to start paying taxes this spring after receiving grants in 2018 or 2019 to repair storm damage, bring high-speed internet to rural communities or invest in renewable energy and energy-efficiency programs. Many co-op leaders feared they would have to raise rates for members to pay the new taxes.


Hunting, fishing had $3.2 billon impact in 2018, study says

Hunting and fishing in Alabama during 2018 had a $3.2 billion economic impact on the state, according to a report.

The Alabama Black Belt Adventures Association (ABBAA) shared that number and others at a recent news conference. Pam Swanner, director of ABBAA, said the report underscores the economic importance hunting and fishing has on Alabama’s economy, especially in rural Alabama’s Black Belt region.

The report, which Southeast Research compiled for ABBAA, found:

• Spending by sportsmen and women supports 73,553 jobs

• Salaries and wages: $1.1 billion

• State and local taxes generated: $185 million

• Contribution to Alabama Education Trust Fund: $84 million

• Total number of hunters: 535,000

• Total number of anglers: 683,000

• Hunters spent more than 14.3 million days hunting in Alabama

• Anglers spent close to 10.9 million days fishing in Alabama

• Alabama residents accounted for almost 91% of the total spending on hunting and fishing in the state.

Story courtesy of Alabama News Center


Take Alabama Living with you and you might win $25!

During 2020, we’re looking for photos of our readers with a copy of Alabama Living on their travels. Send us a photo of  yourself, or other family member, holding a copy of everyone’s favorite magazine while you’re on vacation. To give you an example, here’s Roland Hendon with his copy next to a vintage 1957 Ford while traveling in Havana, Cuba, last year. Hendon, who lives in Mentone, is a member of the board at Sand Mountain Electric Cooperative in Rainsville. 

Send your photo, name, address, location of the photo and your co-op name to: Mytravels@alabamaliving.coop. 

Deadline for the February issue is Jan. 8


Alabama Music Hall of Fame inductions set for January 25

Four Alabamians will be inducted into the Alabama Music Hall of Fame on Jan. 25 at the Marriott Shoals in Florence. This year’s inductees are:

Gary Baker, songwriter, producer and bassist from Sheffield; Mervyn Warren, five-time Grammy Award winner from Huntsville; Elton B. Stephens, businessman born in Barbour County who was instrumental in the rebirth of the Alabama Symphony Orchestra; and Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton, Montgomery native and rhythm and blues musician. 

Induction is reserved for a select few Alabamians who have made exceptional musical contributions throughout their careers. The first induction was held in 1985 and occurs every other year. For more information, visit alamhof.org or call 256-381-4417.