State House Update: Plastic Bags and the Auto Stay
We have yet another week of action in committees. Your help is needed now more than ever. We have an action center set up to make it easy to contact your legislator. Please take action at our new Legislative Action Center.
This Wednesday (Feb 1), the SC Conservation Coalition will present our legislative priorities at the Senate “Conversations with Conservationists” Briefing hosted by Senators Courson and McElveen at 10 am in 105 Gressette on the State House Grounds. I encourage you to stay for the afternoon committee meeting on the bill that will ban plastic bag bans.
Banning Plastic Bag Bans: If passed, H.3529 will prevent our cities and towns from making their own decisions on plastic reduction solutions. It will stick us with unnecessary plastic bags indefinitely, regardless of a local community’s desires.
Despite being a “home rule” state, the plastic bag companies are fighting to take away our right to make decisions about plastic use in our communities and the flow control of recycling waste.
We support the coastal municipalities, like Isle of Palms and Folly Beach, that have taken the lead on this issue to reduce plastic waste on our beaches. Their commitment will protect marine life, birds, and the natural beauty we expect to see along our coast.
- Meeting notice: The House LCI Committee will meet on Wednesday, February 1st at 2:30 pm or 1 1/2 hours after the House adjourns, whichever is later, in room 403 of the Blatt Building.
Saving the Automatic Stay: If passed, S.105 threatens to eliminate citizens’ ability to successfully challenge the government when a citizen believes a permit is incorrectly issued. These bills eliminate what is known as the Automatic Stay – a pause button that prevents harm from occurring while the permit appeal is considered.
The Automatic Stay temporarily prevents activity when a permit decision is challenged. The “stay” allows the court to assess the facts and law in order to determine whether the permit was properly granted. The “stay” avoids irreparable harm to an affected party or place before that harm occurs.
This tool may be used by a wide range of entities – conservation groups, wastewater utilities, hospitals, restaurants, and any other entity that must obtain, or may be affected by, a DHEC permit for operation.
The stakes are high in permit challenges, for both an applicant and a challenger. Allowing a permitted activity to begin with a faulty permit or requiring citizens to post high bonds would significantly harm citizens’ ability to successfully challenge the government.
- Meeting notice: The Senate Judiciary Subcommittee will continue testimony and discussion of S.105 and S.112 (identical bills) on February 2nd at 9:00 am in room 105 of the Gressette Building.
Dam Safety Reform: Over 70 dams have failed across South Carolina in the last two Years. Homes were destroyed. Infrastructure was damaged. Lives were lost. To protect citizens from failing dams, we support DHEC’s efforts to update our outdated dam safety law and support the agency’s funding request to support the program.
H.3218 ensures that DHEC is aware of any transfer of ownership of dams, that dam owners regularly update their contact information with DHEC, provide information on activity related to their dam, and provide the already required emergency action plan to DHEC, downstream homeowners, and emergency access professionals.
- HOUSE STATUS: Thankfully, this bill unanimously passed out of the House Ag Committee last week. We expect the House to vote on the bill this week.
Solar Market Growth: Landmark clean energy legislation passed in 2014 (Act 236) and has made South Carolina one of the fastest growing solar markets in the nation. In order to maintain expansion of renewables in South Carolina, we support adoption of clear guidance for reasonable property tax treatment of renewable energy equipment installed in our state.
S.44 establishes a clear and consistent path for property tax treatment of solar panel and other renewable energy installations, providing an 80% reduction of Fair Market Value for purposes of property tax assessment. As amended, the bill also exempts all residential solar panels from property tax. Together, these changes will help solar continue to grow in South Carolina.
- SENATE STATUS: The Senate Finance Committee has sent S.44 to the Senate floor for a vote.
Reauthorization of the Conservation Bank: The Conservation Bank was created 14 Years ago to safeguard our drinking water, preserve our history and culture, and protect our precious natural resources. It’s the only statewide source of public funding available for willing landowners and their land trust partners to voluntarily conserve important SC lands, and it will shut down if not reauthorized by June of 2018.
S.219 and is awaiting a subcommittee hearing in the Senate Finance Committee. The bill reauthorizes the Conservation Bank for 10 Years and maintains reduced funding for the Bank even in lean budget Years (previously, the Bank was cut to $0 in lean budget Years).
SAVE the DATE: Conservation Lobby Day and Oyster Roast, March 21, 2017