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At the Statehouse – We will hold them accountable

You may have heard by now that the residential solar bill, H.4421, met a cruel fate this past week.

Here’s what happened:

For most bills, the third and final “reading” is usually a quick and nearly automatic process. If a bill makes it through the gauntlet of the first two readings (when most of the amending and debating takes place), then the final reading is merely a formality.

H.4421, however, found contentious constitutional debate during its final reading… and ultimately failed to pass.

With over a dozen roll call votes on solar energy in just the last few weeks, there is now an opportunity to make sure your legislators are accountable to you.

As we approach the final month of 2018 session (there are only 12 legislative days left!), your representatives in the General Assembly need to know you are paying attention and you will be voting.

Part of my job is to share with you how legislators vote, when they sponsor good (and bad) bills, and when they go above and beyond to fight for the South Carolina we love at the Statehouse.

I’m updating the Conservation Scorecard with 2017-2018 votes to have it ready for you to use this election season as a guide.

Until that’s ready, here’s the final vote on H.4421 this past week. If you’re interested in reading more about the play-by-play of procedural votes taken on the bill, please read Cindi Ross Scoppe’s breakdown of the votes in The State.

And please continue communicating your support for solar energy with a message to your Representative.

What else happened?

Conservation Bank Funding – The Senate spent this last week working on their version of the state budget. They funded the Conservation Bank with $4.5 million in recurring funds, $3 million in non-recurring, and a $3 million pass-through to the Department of Natural Resources. They allocated about $2 million more to the Bank than the House, which they’ll discuss in conference committee. Thankfully, the budget passed as we expected.

What’s up for a vote this week:

Anti-Home Rule – In the midst of budget week, the Senate Labor, Commerce, & Industry (LCI) Committee voted on H.3218 last week. This is the short-sighted legislation that undermines the rights of local municipalities to find local solutions to local plastic pollution problems. With a hand vote, the bill passed to the floor 10-5. The Senate can now vote on the bill as early as this week. Please let your Senator 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.

Dam Safety Reform – The dam safety bill that passed the House in early 2017 had languished in the Senate. Now, a Senate Agriculture subcommittee meeting has been scheduled for Wednesday, the 18th, at 9:30am in room 407 of the Gressette Building. H.3218 will provide DHEC the tools and data necessary to protect citizens, their property, and our rivers from failing dams. Please remind your Senator that we haven’t forgotten about the importance of dam safety (your actions have helped us get this far!).

Landfill Clean-up & Emergency Fund – H.4644 gives DHEC the ability to respond immediately to landfill emergencies and requires construction and demolition recyclers to quickly process the debris they collect. After the landfill fire in Chester last Year, a broad coalition of folks got together to prevent future crises, crafting this bill in the process. The bill passed out of the House by a nearly unanimous margin, and has now been scheduled before the Senate Medical Affairs subcommittee at 10am Tuesday, the 17th, in room 207 of the Gressette Building.

Conservation Bank Reauthorization – The House bill that permanently reauthorizes the Conservation Bank, H.4727, will be back up before the House this Tuesday for a concurrence vote, determining whether the bill will go to a conference committee before final passage. The most important elements of this bill are a permanent reauthorization, maintaining the Bank’s independence and competitive grants process, and continuing the ability of the Bank to support cost-effective conservation easements. A number of other changes from both the House and Senate improve transparency and inter-agency coordination related to conservation efforts.

Solar Habitat – This bill will create a voluntary vegetative management standard for solar sites that will lead to native vegetation and habitat around solar sites that are beneficial to game birds, songbirds, wild pollinators, small mammals and other wildlife. DNR and other state agencies, federal partners, and conservation non-profits will work collaboratively to develop the voluntary standards. H.4875 has made a long journey quickly this session and will be before a Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Subcommittee Wednesday, the 18th, at 11:00 AM in room 407 of the Gressette Building.

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