Citizen advocacy, our first legislative reception, and a passionate filibuster…
Those were just a few of the things that went down during a hectic third week of the legislative session.
It was a week in which we slowed the progress of bad bills and pushed important reforms through the process. And it served as an important reminder of how citizens’ voices can affect change at the Statehouse.
Thank you for taking action… let’s keep it up!
HIGHLIGHTS FROM LAST WEEK
• Legislative Kickoff and Lobby Day – Conservationists gathered on Tuesday morning for the Conservation Coalition’s first organized Lobby day of the Year. It was a fun day at the Statehouse that all culminated with an incredible turnout at the CVSC Legislative Kickoff Tuesday evening. It was our largest ever kickoff event with over 150 attendees and nearly 50 legislators enjoying good food, drink, and conversation.
• Immunity for Industry (Nuisance) – H.3653 came up for debate in the Senate this week. This short-sighted bill would give industry blanket immunity from nuisance suits and prevent citizens from taking action to limit noise and odor pollution from expanding industry. Senator Vincent Sheheen spoke on the bill for five hours Wednesday, making an impassioned defense of common law, the system that has worked for the past 200 years in settling issues regarding the quiet and peaceful enjoyment of one’s own property. The bill will be back up for debate on Tuesday with Senator Sheheen still holding the floor.
• Dam Safety – The Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee discussed dam safety issues with DHEC on Thursday. The meeting was an opportunity for Senators to gather information about DHEC’s current progress evaluating dams across the state. Unfortunately, H.3218, which would update our outdated dam safety law, was not considered. That means there is still time to urge your Senator to make our state safe and give DHEC the tools they need to protect us from failing dams.
• Energy – We saw more action in the House this week as they progressed with passage of structural reforms to “fix the mess” after the VC Summer abandonment last summer. The House voted 114-1 to create a ‘Utilities Consumer Advocate’ in the Attorney General’s Office under H.4379. This advocate will argue before the PSC on behalf of consumers. The bill also addresses the dual-mission of the Office of Regulatory Staff (ORS), which historically advocated for both ratepayers and utilities in rate-making cases.
The House also voted 104-5 to pass H.4378, which restructures and reforms the PURC into the Utility Oversight Committee, and sets more stringent ethical and transparency standards. The new Committee will continue to evaluate and recommend PSC candidates to the legislature.
• Litter – H.4458, a positive bill meant to address fines and enforcement related to littering, passed out of the House Ag and Natural Resources Committee this week and is headed to the House floor for a vote. With broad bipartisan support, this bill is a great step forward for making it easier for local communities to enforce littering and illegal dumping ordinances.
THE WEEK AHEAD
• Conservation Bank – Representative Brian White introduced H.4727 last week. This bill will impact several functions of the Bank and reauthorize it permanently, and getting it introduced and moving early in session is a step in the right direction for the Bank. We look forward to working with House and Senate members in the weeks ahead and will update you on major developments and how you can take action to support the Conservation Bank.
• Shoreline Management – In 2016, you helped the Conservation Coalition pass historic legislation to balance shoreline development with good coastal management and science. Last fall, DHEC released new beachfront lines for development, but the rollout process left something to be desired. Coastal homeowners were rightly frustrated by poor public notice and transparency. S.927 was introduced last week in an attempt to respond to that frustration, but it misses the mark – and instead damages sound coastal management policy. S.927 will be discussed in a Senate Ag subcommittee on Wednesday morning, and we strongly oppose this rollback of shoreline protections. Join us and let your Senator know there’s a better way to protect our shoreline.
• Home Rule and Plastic Bags – It looks like H.3529 is finally coming up for a vote on the House floor this week. This is the short-sided legislation that undermines the rights of local municipalities. Please let your Representative know that you believe communities should have the right to find local solutions to local problems and ask them to vote against this awful bill.
If you have any questions about these bills or want to read more about our conservation priorities for this session, check out our summary of our 2018 legislative priorities here.
As always, thanks for all you do!