February 12th, 2018
By Shelley Robbins
The new Conservation Bank Reauthorization Bill H. 4727, sponsored by Rep. Brian White of Anderson County, passed unanimously out of the full House Ways and Means Committee with one positive amendment on February 7 and is heading for the House floor this week. Upstate Forever thanks our Upstate Representatives on that committee: Chairman Brian White, Derham Cole, Dwight Loftis, Mike Pitts, Bill Whitmire, Mike Anthony, and Garry Smith. Please feel free to send them a thank you as well! Use our Find Your Legislator link to find their web page and contact information. We will continue to keep you posted on the bill's progress, but this was a huge step.
The Nuisance Bill (H. 3653), which makes it difficult for citizens to hold industry accountable for noise and odor issues, is now headed for the Governor's desk to be signed into law. We thank Senator Shane Martin again for speaking out against the bill on the Senate floor.
The Auto-Stay Bill (S. 105) remains on the House floor awaiting debate. This bill allows permit applicants to begin construction on their projects before the permitting process is complete. The Plastic Bag "Ban Ban" Bill that assaults home rule (H. 3529) was passed by the House and now heads back to the Senate for concurrence. 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).
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 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.
The Base Load Review Act, the rate impact of the abandoned V.C. Summer nuclear plants 2 and 3, and renewable energy continue to dominate in Columbia. This past week the House Energy Caucus met as well as the House Ratepayer Protection Committee. A package of energy reform bills passed out of the House last week have been assigned to the Senate Judiciary Committee but hearings have not yet been scheduled. 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. 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, and H. 4421 which addresses net metering and a host of other distributed energy issues. 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 - please see the information below about the 2018 Conservation Coalition Lobby Day and Oyster Roast! There will be additional advocacy opportunities February 22 and April 24, if the March date doesn't work but you would love to visit the Statehouse with Upstate Forever. Thank you for taking action and have a great week.
A periodic tidbit to explain and demystify how the Legislature works.
When is the SC Legislature in session and how many days per week are they there? The General Assembly works in 2-year segments. This year is the second year (session) of the 122nd General Assembly. Bills left unfinished from last year carried over to this year, but bills left unfinished this year will need to be re-filed (or not) in 2019, the beginning of the next 2 year cycle. The Legislature convened on January 9 of 2018 and the last day - called sine die - is currently scheduled for May 10, the second Thursday in May. (Spoiler: that could change this year. S. 953 calls for the extension of sine die to November 9 in order to deal with energy issues and a few other matters.) The House and Senate Chambers and committees typically meet only Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of each week, allowing legislators to have Monday and Friday at home to tend to business and local constituent matters. That calendar is found here on the right and some meetings are live-streamed. Many Upstate and Coastal legislators will spend the night in Columbia on Tuesday and Wednesday to minimize travel time. We thank their families and businesses for this sacrifice of time while they attend to the matters of the state.
Save the date: MARCH 20 Lobby Day and Oyster Roast
MARCH 20 is the date for the state conservation organization lobby day, organized by the South Carolina Conservation Coalition. Upstate Forever will provide transportation from our Greenville office to Columbia in the morning. We will gather for information and training and then head over to the Statehouse to tell our Legislators what our important issues are this year. The day ends with a delicious oyster roast, an event that is also well attended by Legislators and tons of fun. Stay tuned for more information or shoot Shelley Robbins an e-mail letting her know of your interest.