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April 21st, 2019
By Shelley Robbins
We have spent the first 14 Legislative Updates explaining the various bills that we are tracking in the Statehouse. But this week, there was only one bill under discussion and that was H. 4000, also known as The State Budget. The House developed and passed the budget weeks ago, and the Senate spent this past week debating it on the floor (the House took the week off).
A tremendous amount of effort goes into each and every bill that is filed, debated, and voted upon — so much so that we sometimes forget how powerful a different legislative tool can be until it sneaks up on us during budget debate: the proviso. A budget proviso is a one-year authorization for "something" (an action, a program, a prohibition) that is tied in some way to the budget. Provisos are proposed and debated as amendments to the state budget. Sometimes, provisos are introduced to move an issue forward that did not make it out of committee in time to pass on its own. This week, that happened with two issues we track: offshore drilling and the plastic bag "ban ban."
Last week, we reported that duelling offshore drilling resolutions both passed out of a House Agriculture subcommittee — essentially the House subcommittee took no stand for or against the issue. Well this week, the Senate chose to take a clear stand. Crystal clear. By a vote of 40-4, the Senate approved Senator Campsen's (Charleston) proviso creating a one year prohibition on the issuance of onshore permits for infrastructure associated with offshore drilling. Read more here. And see the vote count here. This proviso must now be approved by the House, and it can be renewed next year.
The Plastics "Ban Ban" S. 394 bill had made it out of committee but not in time to become law this year, so on Thursday, Senator Massey (Edgefield) submitted a proviso that would have punished local governments for enacting ordinances restricting the sale or use of any "consumer good" — much broader than just plastics. The floor debate was one of the best we've seen, and the case was made that while litter is a huge problem, South Carolina has done very little about it. Ultimately, a vote was called — one that is an indicator of how a vote on S. 394 might go — and the proviso was defeated 27-15. See that vote count here. And read more here.
A third proviso that caught our attention was one that directs ORS to create a study committee to see how South Carolina's citizens would benefit from investor-owned utilities (Duke and Dominion) joining or creating an RTE — a regional transmission entity. The Southeast is one of only two regions in the country (the other being the West outside of California, see map) that has not adopted the RTE model of having an outside entity manage and control the utilities' transmission systems. RTEs generally result in source-blind/cost-sensitive decisions being made about how electricity is supplied to the grid. We are seeing a higher level of deployment of renewables in RTE regions as those costs decline dramatically. The proviso study committee includes two representatives from the conservation community to be appointed by the Chair of House Judiciary. We are very supportive of this proviso and hope the House concurs.
If you looked at the vote counts for the first two provisos, above, you will see clearly that your Upstate Senators need to hear from you on the issues that matter to you. The Energy Freedom Act aka the Solar Bill H. 3659 could come up for a vote on the Senate floor at any time now, and we only have nine legislative days to get this bill past its final hurdle. If you have not contacted your senator, now is the time!
Let your Senator know that you support more solar and more competition in South Carolina here. You can use the pre-drafted message or you can customize your message (which is always more effective — they want to hear why their vote matters to you personally).
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Until next week!
Energy and State Policy Director