After a much needed Easter break, House members return to Columbia this week. As May 1st looms (crossover date), members will be pushing for their bills to pass either the House or the Senate by then if they hope for passage this year. For us, this means the next few weeks will be a whirlwind of legislative activity.
Senators returned last week to begin reviewing the House’s budget and will continue those discussions this week in the Finance Committee. Senator Harvey Peeler unexpectedly resigned as Majority Leader last Tuesday citing a need to focus on a primary challenger in his district and a desire to share some leadership responsibilities in the Senate. The Republican Caucus met the next day and elected Senator Shane Massey as the new Majority Leader. Sen. Massey has been a supporter of conservation issues in the Senate and we look forward to working with him.
1. Banning lead wheel weights: A group of 10-12 year old students from the Charles Townes Center for gifted students are making an impact on the school’s Lego robotics team nicknamed “The Hyperbolics.” The theme of this year’s Lego competition was Trash Trek and as their project the Hyperbolics took on the task of getting rid of lead-based wheel weights. Lead wheel weights can fall off, degrade, and travel in stormwater runoff threatening our waterways.
Students started off with a public awareness campaign, website and video. The Hyperbolics then got a meeting with the Greenville Legislative Delegation urging them to look at legislation. They also landed the support of the Automotive Maintenance and Repair Association, Motorist Assurance Program and Plombco, a major manufacturer of wheel weights, who put out endorsements and a press release supporting potential legislation.
On the final day before lawmakers left for Easter recess, Representative Bruce Bannister and the Greenville delegation introduced H.5141. Senator Ross Turner plans to introduce a companion bill in the Senate. Students are trying to drum up support in the House and Senate to get it passed before the session ends in June.
The bill is waiting for a subcommittee hearing in the House Commerce, Labor and Industry (LCI) Committee, but the crossover date is looming and we need to hustle. Can you help us by calling LCI members and asking them to push for a subcommittee hearing?
2. Immunity for Industry: Senators recently introduced a bill that would protect industry from nuisance claims. If S.1062 passes, no “existing industrial facility” can be sued for nuisance because of any “changed conditions” in the existing facility. This could include anything from increasing the size to a landfill changing the kind of “waste” it accepts (i.e. human sewage, coal ash, etc.). A “changed condition” could increase the odors, noise, dust, traffic, emissions, discharges, etc such that their neighbors’ properties become uninhabitable.
This is an inexcusable attempt to obtain immunity for horrible nuisances, negatively impacting property values and the quality of life of their neighbors. This bill will be in Senate LCI Subcommittee on April 21st. Please help us by calling Senate LCI members.
3. Fight for the Auto Stay: In the last several years, we have had numerous conversations about the need to protect fair regulations that enable citizens, and in some cases, your constituents, to protect themselves from unlawful pollution. While we have fought back many of these rollbacks, two bills remain a threat this year. H.5090, was introduced last week and awaits review in House Judiciary. It is similar to S.165 which is currently stalled on the Senate calendar. Although described as being a ‘business friendly’ clean-up of language that allows ‘frivolous’ lawsuits to delay road projects, these bills would limit the ability of citizens to protect themselves from unwanted pollution. Read what we shared with House members.
4. Protecting Lake Conestee Nature Park: After about two years of pursuing recognition of Lake Conestee Nature Park as a “Wildlife Sanctuary” in state statutes (like Beidler Forest and numerous other properties around the state) our friends at the Conestee Foundation have H.4743, introduced by Representatives Eric Bedingfield and Chandra Dillard. After passing the House, this bill will be heard in Senate Fish Game and Forestry Subcommittee this Thursday. We will be there speaking in support.
5. Impacts from Mine Blasting: As many communities adjacent to mining operations can attest, we need stronger mining laws. We are grateful for Rep. Kennedy and numerous co-sponsors for supporting legislation to require minimum distances from communities when conducting blasting at mines. We will be joining Sierra Club and Sustainable Midlands in the House Ag Subcommittee Thursday to support H.4206.
6. Conservation Bank: We’d like to thank Senators on Senator Setzler’s Finance Subcommittee for eliminating provisos intended to redirect funds from the Conservation Bank to DNR. We look forward to helping DNR find another source of funding and are hopeful that the full Senate Finance committee with fully fund the Bank this week.