January 28th, 2018
By Shelley Robbins
The Upstate Forever land trust program got its start back in 1998. We are an entity that holds and enforces voluntary conservation easements that protect property from development. Our fellow Upstate land trusts include SPACE in Spartanburg County, the Naturaland Trust, and The Nature Conservancy, among others. The SC Conservation Bank has been a critical tool that has enabled us to protect thousands of acres in the Upstate (72 properties - take a look at them here) and over 300,000 acres statewide.
The Bank is set to expire at the end of June if the Legislature does not take action. Folks statewide have been working around the clock to make reauthorization a reality, and we are delighted to announce that Representative Brian White of Anderson County, Chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, filed a bill this past week to do just that (here). This bill will be a companion, with some differences to be worked out, to the Senate bill filed last year. We hope to see the House bill start moving in the coming week or two. We will keep you posted! For more information about the effort, here is a great op-ed by Conservation Voters of SC's John Tynan about the bipartisan effort.
The Nuisance Bill (H. 3653) was filibustered on the Senate floor this week by Senator Sheheen. We are hopeful that we will see some compromise amendments this week. The Auto-Stay bill (S. 105) remains on the House floor awaiting debate.
The Plastic Bag "Ban Ban" bill that assaults home rule (H. 3529) is also on the House floor awaiting debate and may be taken up this week. You can take action on this bill through the South Carolina Conservation Coalition's user-friendly action center (here). While the Legislature considers this issue, many South Carolina coastal cities are enacting ordinances ahead of the ban, but current wording of the bill may not allow them to be grandfathered. And we thought South Carolina was a Home Rule state!
We are delighted to report that H. 4458 - the Litter Bill filed by Rep. Johnson, passed out of the House Agriculture Committee and has also picked up additional sponsors. This bill should improve law enforcement's willingness and ability to write tickets for littering. It will lower the fine and therefore increase ticketing. We agree that's a good thing. We are hopeful the bill will have broad support.
If offshore drilling is of concern to you (I've always said here in the Upstate - "it's our coast, too"), there is a Conservation Coalition action center for that issue (here).
The package of energy bills continue to be negotiated as well as Dominion's proposal to purchase SCANA and repeal of the Base Load Review Act. If you wonder how this affects us in the Upstate and statewide, take a peek at my op-ed in The State here.
And if you are curious about who your state legislators are - look it up right here.
Have a great week!