At the Statehouse – Are you feeling empowered?
“I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I can tell I made a difference. He listened to me like what I said mattered.”
That’s what one of our members told me about a conversation with their State Senator after our first Conservation Coalition Lobby Day last month. They truly felt empowered.
It’s a sentiment I hear frequently from folks who have had the chance to talk with their lawmakers about our issues.
When constituents care enough to visit Columbia and share their views, their elected officials notice and listen.
If you missed out last month, don’t worry…
And this month, we’ll have a free breakfast where you can network with your legislators. All the details are on the RSVP page.
If you need a few conversation starters for Thursday, I might suggest the items highlighted below in this week’s legislative update…
HIGHLIGHTS FROM LAST WEEK
• Conservation Bank – The Conservation Bank is one step closer to reauthorization! Last week, the House passed H.4727, the Conservation Bank Reauthorization Bill, by an overwhelming margin of 107-3. The bill now heads to the Senate where we’ll look to keep up the momentum for improving and reauthorizing this vital state agency — which has protected over 300,000 acres of rivers, lakes, farms, forests, and beaches across our great state. Please, join us in thanking your Representative for their support.
• Offshore Drilling Rally a Success – Hundreds gathered at the Statehouse last Tuesday for the Rally Against Offshore Drilling. A bipartisan lineup of elected leaders passionately spoke out against bringing this dirty and dangerous industry to our shores. Advocates then showed their opposition to drilling at the BOEM public meeting across town. Thank you to all who joined and the elected leaders who spoke in opposition, especially Congressman Mark Sanford.
• Shoreline Management – H. 4683, the bill that would roll back critical shoreline protections from 2016, was greatly improved in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee this week. Amendments to the bill establish a permanent baseline using the lines drawn in 2012 and then outline an improved process for establishing future baselines. Special thanks go out to Chairman Rep. David Hiott and Reps. Chandra Dillard and Russell Ott for their hard work on this issue and for addressing concerns from the conservation community.
• Energy Reform – The House and Senate continue to work tirelessly on South Carolina’s energy future, with a primary focus on improving the energy decision-making process in our state. So far, the House has passed the following:
- H.4375, which modifies the Base Load Review Act (BLRA) and clarifies definitions to ensure that no future projects can use the BLRA. The bill also addresses the BLRA as it applies to the VC Summer project.
- H.4377, which improves qualifications for the Public Service Commission (PSC), ends the terms of current commissioners in 2018 and 2019, and requires legislative elections for the PSC in 2018 and 2019.
- H.4378, which changes the Public Utilities Review Committee to the Utility Oversight Committee, modifies selection of Committee members, and increases ethics and transparency requirements of the Committee.
- H.4379, which creates a Utility Consumer Advocate position within the Attorney General’s office to advocate for consumers’ interests in utility ratemaking proceedings. The bill also modifies the mission of the Office of Regulatory Staff (ORS) to focus primarily on ratepayers, removing elements that require ORS to consider the financial impacts on utilities.
All of the above-referenced energy bills that have passed the House are in the Judiciary committee of the Senate. The Senate has also approved the following bill: S.954, which prevents the PSC from ruling on any cases related to the VC Summer project until November 1 and requires a ruling before December 21.
THE WEEK AHEAD
• Plastic Bags & Home Rule – We’ve begun Round 2 in the fight to allow local jurisdictions to make up their own minds about how to handle plastic bag and Styrofoam pollution. Unfortunately, H.3529, which takes this power away from the municipalities, passed the House earlier this month and now heads to the Senate for debate and discussion. No hearings have been set yet, but we need to make Senators aware of this affront to home rule and its impacts on plastic pollution in our communities. Please, contact your Senator today and tell them you oppose this effort to allow unchecked plastic pollution and rollback Home Rule.
• Solar Energy Growth – Customers will continue to have access to residential solar energy at fair prices under a bill that will go before a House subcommittee this Thursday. House Bill 4421 would eliminate caps on residential solar use, make a number of other solar improvements, and ultimately allow the residential solar market to continue to thrive. This is a good bill! Tell your Representative that you support H.4421 because you want to maintain access to solar energy options and help create clean energy jobs.
• Energy Efficiency Options – Also on Thursday, a House subcommittee will consider H.4425, a bill that will help ratepayers reduce their power bills by investing in cost-effective energy efficiency efforts. Energy efficiency is the cheapest form of “new” energy and the most cost-effective way to reduce power bills. Please, tell your Representative that you support H.4425 because it reduces power bills in the most cost-effective way… by wasting less of it.
• Automatic Stay – We avoided debate and a vote on the rollback of the Automatic Stay last week in the House, but the bill (S.105) is scheduled to come up again this week. This is the bill that will weaken citizens’ ability to engage in the public permitting process by taking away an important pause button in the permitting process and allowing environmental destruction to occur before a permit is final. Go here to ask your Representative to preserve citizens’ rights to a clean and healthy environment by voting “NO” on S.105.
That’s it for now. Thanks for tuning in!