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Our Greenville and Spartanburg offices have closed while Upstate Forever staff work from home to help protect the health of each other, our families, and our communities. But while we are not together in the office, we remain together in our continued efforts to protect our region's critical lands, waters, and unique character.
February 5th, 2018
By Shelley Robbins
It was a roller coaster ride of a week with some great moments. I'll cut to the chase.
The new Conservation Bank Reauthorization Bill H. 4727, sponsored by Rep. Brian White of Anderson County, sailed through its House Way and Means subcommittee meeting and is now scheduled for full committee on Wednesday, February 7. Further, the SC Conservation Bank Board had a very positive budget hearing this past week as well. There is much more to be done before the reauthorization process is finished, but we are encouraged and will continue to keep you updated.
The Nuisance Bill (H. 3653) filibuster on the Senate floor by Senator Sheheen continued this week but ultimately the bill was put to a vote on Wednesday. We thought the bill's defeat was in sight after a masterful floor speech by Senator Shane Martin of Spartanburg County. He beautifully articulated the bill's flaws, the lack of an actual problem in need of fixing, and the danger of negative long term consequences (much like those of the Base Load Review Act). Ultimately, the bill was passed, but we thank Senator Martin for his effort and his desire to look out for his constituents.
The Auto-Stay Bill (S. 105) remains on the House floor awaiting debate as does the Plastic Bag "Ban Ban" bill that assaults home rule (H. 3529). They can be taken up at any time. You can take action on these bills through the South Carolina Conservation Coalition's user-friendly action center (here for Auto-Stay and here for Plastics).
We are delighted to report that H. 4458 - the Litter Bill filed by Rep. Johnson, passed out of the House! It is now heading to the Senate Judiciary Committee for consideration. 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. In addition, there will be a rally opposing offshore drilling in Columbia on February 13 and there will be a bus heading there from Greenville, organized by Upstate Sierra Club chapters, the Women's March, and Coastal Conservation League. More information can be found here.
A package of energy reform bills passed out of the House after lively debate. One of those bills repeals the Base Load Review Act for upcoming projects and also temporarily rolls back SCE&G's rates until constitutional issues can be settled. We thank Representative Gary Clary (Pickens County) for his insightful and supportive comments on the floor. Other bills passed reform the state's regulatory structure and establish a consumer advocate, and these all now head to the Senate. Several new energy bills are now queueing up for consideration including H. 4425 which establishes even more robust requirements for a consumer advocate. We also expect to see a new pair of bills, S. 890 and H. 4796 - called the Energy Freedom Act - gain traction. These bills add a bit more market competition to the energy environment in South Carolina. Upstate Senators Rex Rice, Scott Talley, and William Timmons are co-sponsoring the Senate bill.
Finally, there will be an Legislative Breakfast and Lobby Day on February 22 with transportation leaving from our Greenville office at 6:15am. And the big Conservation Coalition Lobby Day and Oyster Roast is March 20, with transportation leaving from the Greenville office around 8am. Both of these are free of charge. If you can join Upstate Forever in Columbia for either of these events, please email me at email@example.com and let me know.