Rebecca Haynes Rebecca Haynes
March 11, 2017

We saw a lot at the State House last week! 

Tuesday afternoon, we finally got to the long-awaited debate and vote on the “Anti-Home Rule” bill, or known by some as the ban on plastic bag bans (H.3529). If passed, the bill would have limited the ability of citizens to work with their local government to find local solutions to local problems – including plastic bag and other container pollution. After intense debate about the roles of state and local government and the detrimental effect of plastics on our coastal economies, conservation champions we able to kill the bill for the year by getting it “continued” until January of 2018. We ultimately won on a procedural vote of 50-49. I hope you’ll join us in thanking Representatives Robert L. Brown, Gary Clary, Gilda Cobb-Hunter, William Cogswell, Shannon Erickson, Bill Herbkersman, Peter McCoy, Cezar McKnight, Weston Newton, Russell Ott, James Smith, Leon Stavrinakis, Mike Sottile, and Robert Williams for their support during the debate and vote. To read more, check out this article on the vote.

Also on Tuesday, supporters of S.105, the Automatic Stay bill, attempted to circumvent an objection that had been place on the bill by Senator McElveen. To debate the bill despite Sen. McElveen’s objection, the bill would need to be placed in a “Special Order slot” for debate, which typically requires approval by two thirds of the Senate.  The motion for Special Order failed 25-15.

Following the first failed Special Order vote, Senator Shane Massey, as Chairman of the Senate Rules committee, moved to make the bill a Special Order under Rule 33B – a rarely used rule that allows the bill to be placed Special Order by a simple majority vote of the Senate if a poll of the Rules Committee supports it.  The bill was polled out of the Rules Committee favorably 9-7 and the bill was placed on Special Order by a 24-15 vote.

The Senate Automatic Stay bill  was brought up for debate under Special Order on Wednesday afternoon. After a filibuster by opponents of the bill, a number of amendments were agreed to by Senators on both sides of the bill. The amended version was passed on Thursday by a vote of 26-6.  Check out this article on the outcome. We are thankful of the efforts by Senators McElveen, Kimpson, Sheheen, Young, Matthews, Fanning, Courson, Scott, and Allen for their commitment and passion in debating the bill, holding the floor, and their persistence in negotiating amendments to the bill.

While the amended version is an improvement upon the original bill, we still oppose it. In short, the amendments allow an automatic stay that is at least 90 days. But if the applicant seeks to lift the stay, the citizen challengers are now required to meet an incredibly high burden to maintain the stay. Our Senate champions, however, were able to include language that a case cannot be thrown out if the stay is lifted, construction is started, and damage to the environment occurs. Finally, hazardous waste permits are excluded from the “new” auto stay process and must abide by the earlier process.

Despite the unfortunate outcome in the Senate, we still have the House debate and vote in front of us (after the budget next week) on Automatic Stay. During this debate, your voice will be needed more than ever.

This week in the House will be all about the budget. We are asking our Representatives to support agency funding of DHEC, DNR, and the Conservation Bank; as well as continued support of the Pinewood hazardous waste site. In the meantime, we’ll also be working on the following bills:

Immunity for Industry from Nuisance Suits: S.323 and H.3653 remove the rights of neighboring landowners to take action to ensure the safe and healthy enjoyment of their property. Essentially the bills provide industry a blanket immunity from noise and odor impacts to nearby properties (these, among others, are called nuisance complaints). If these bills pass, citizens will not be able to take action to protect their property from nuisance issues.

Supporters of the bill argue that the bill is intended to prevent an existing industry from being sued if a nearby property is sold and a new resident moves nearby. Existing nuisance laws and court precedent have already established a process for addressing disputes that arise between industries and their neighbors. The current system is not broken and is not being abused and should be maintained.

Dam Safety Reform In October of 2015, rain pummeled South Carolina and over 51 dams across the state burst under the pressure of swollen rivers and creeks. Then, a year later, Hurricane Matthew gave our dams and infrastructure another beating, bringing the total to 70 failed dams. Homes were destroyed. Infrastructure was damaged. Lives were lost. We must 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. Moving forward, we hope that South Carolina can better prepare, secure, and restore our infrastructure to weather the worst storms and protect the South Carolina we love.

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.

  • Senate Status: H.3218 passed out of the House in February, but it has yet to have a subcommittee hearing scheduled in the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. Contact your Senator and ask them to encourage the committee to move forward with the Dam Safety Reform Bill.

Please visit our Legislative Action Center for opportunities to contact your legislators.

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Please Register for the Conservation Lobby Day and Oyster Roast on March 21, 2017

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