Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Annual Conservation Lobby Day

The 2012 Annual Conservation Lobby Day is next week, Tuesday, May 1st. Join hundreds of conservation community members at the State House as we gather to encourage support of the Common Agenda priorities! Lobby day is a great opportunity to meet, greet and influence elected officials first hand. Lobby Day activities begin at 9:00 am at the Columbia Museum of Art (1515 Main St  Columbia, SC 29201) followed by an Oyster Roast and Local Foods Reception at 5:30 pm at the Seibels House (1601 Richland Street Columbia, SC 29201). You can read an agenda here. If you'd like to participate please RSVP to vanessa@thesoutherngreenie.com.

Lobby Team Tuesday

Join us tomorrow, Apr. 24th as members of the South Carolina Sierra Club come to the State House to speak to their legislators. The Sierra Club's motto is "to explore, enjoy, and protect the wild places of the Earth; to practice & promote the responsible use of the Earth's ecosystems & resources; to educate and enlist humanity to protect and restore the quality of the natural & human environment; and to use all lawful means to carry out these objectives." For more information on participating in weekly Lobby Teams visit the CVSC website or send an email to debbie@cvsc.org.

In the House

Alcoholic Beverage Container (ABC) Recycling (S.461, Sen. Ray Cleary) SUPPORT
S.461 creates a program for hotel, restaurant and bar owners to implement recycling in the next two years for plastic, corrugated cardboard, aluminum and glass. Businesses are exempt from the recycling program if they cannot afford to recycle, and liquor permits cannot be revoked for failure to comply. This bill needs a hearing in the Agriculture Subcommittee (Rep. David Hiott- Chair, Bill Crosby, Chandra Dillard and Chris Murphy). Email Chairman Nelson Hardwick to ask him to support common sense recycling.

Abandoned Buildings Revitalization Act (H.4802, Rep. James Smith/S.1330, Sen. Creighton Coleman) SUPPORT
This legislation is in response to the hundreds of abandoned buildings that are blighting many communities all over South Carolina. H.4802 would create a 25% state income tax credit applied to the rehabilitation of a building that has been abandoned for at least five years, that will be utilized for commerce and that will have at least $500,000 invested. This bill will be considered by the full House this week.

Property and Firefighter Protection Bill (H.4082, Rep. Ted Vick/S.1348, Sen. John Land) SUPPORT
This legislation would transfer 7% of taxes already being collected on insurance premiums that currently go into the state’s General Fund to the Forestry Commission to protect property, firefighters, the public, and grow the forest industry. This is not a new tax, and will not take funds from other organizations which currently receive direct funding from insurance taxes and fees. H.4082 received a favorable report last week from the full Ways and Means Committee and will be discussed by the full House this week.

In the Senate

Polluter Bill (H.4654, Rep. Nelson Hardwick) OPPOSE unless amended
A recent Supreme Court ruling affirmed protections for all of our state’s waters, including Carolina Bays and wetlands, and the right of citizens to sue against harm to themselves or their property from pollution. H.4654 passed the House in an 85-22 vote in March, and two weeks ago the Senate Medical Affairs Committee, on the motion of Sen. Brad Hutto, unanimously voted to adopt an amendment that does not satisfy the conservation community's concerns about the bill. Consequently, we oppose H.4654 in its current form. H.4654 is now on the Senate contested calendar, with objections attached by Senators Hutto, Greg Gregory, Phil Leventis and John Scott. We urge Senators to oppose the bill unless conservation amendments are adopted to protect wetlands and clarify standing for citizens' suits. This is a major 2012 Conservation Common Agenda priority.

Conservation Bank Sunset Extension (H.3083, Rep. Mike Pitts) SUPPORT
Originally slated to end, or sunset, in 2013, H.3083 extends the life of the Conservation Bank five more years. Last week, on the Senate floor, Sen. Shane Martin raised questions about the Bank and proposed an amendment that would ensure minimum funding for the Conservation Bank in poor budget years when the “death clause” eliminates its funds. After conversation with Bank supporters, we thank Sen. Martin for withdrawing his amendment in order to keep the bill moving forward. The bill then received second reading in a 38-2 vote, with Senators Lee Bright and Mike Fair opposing. Although it’s unusual to object to third reading, Sen. Bright is now objecting.  Once the objection is removed the full Senate will be able to consider third reading for the bill. We urge Senators to vote for passage of this major Common Agenda priority. Contact your Senator today.

Solar Tax Credit Bill (H.3346, Rep. Dwight Loftis)
This bill establishes a 35% state tax credit for the installation of solar energy equipment for both residential and commercial purposes placed in service in taxable years after 2010. This legislation not only promotes renewable energy; it encourages solar installations and creates new jobs. H.3346 passed the House in a 100-10 vote last year, and will be considered by the full Finance Committee (Sen. Hugh Leatherman- Chair, John Land, Nikki Setzler, Phil Leventis, Harvey Peeler, Dave Thomas, Yancey McGill, John Courson, John Matthews, Billy O'Dell, Glenn Reese, Wes Hayes, Greg Ryberg, Tom Alexander, Larry Grooms, Clementa Pinckney, Mike Fair, Danny Verdin, Ronnie Cromer, Kevin Bryant, Dick Elliott, Darrell Jackson and Ralph Anderson) Tuesday, April 24th at 3:00 pm in Gressette Room 105.

Commercial Center Retrofit Act (H.3604, Rep. James Smith) SUPPORT
This concurrent resolution encourages local governments to adopt ordinances allowing shopping malls to be redeveloped into "dense, walkable, mixed-use town centers." The House adopted H.3604 last year and the full Judiciary Committee (Sen. Larry Martin -Chair, Robert Ford, Luke Rankin, Brad Hutto, Jake Knotts, Gerald Malloy, Vincent Sheheen, Chip Campsen, Ray Cleary, JoeI Lourie, Kent Williams, Paul Campbell, Shane Massey, Lee Bright, Creighton Coleman, Tom Davis, Shane Martin, Floyd Nicholson, Mike Rose, John Scott, Phillip Shoopman and Greg Gregory) will consider it Tuesday, April 24th at 3:00 pm in Gressette Room 308.

Safer Bike Routes (S.1375, Sen. Chip Campsen)
State law currently restricts the use of anything but an automobile on “controlled-access roadways-” for example the James Island Connector in Charleston. S.1375 provides exceptions for bicyclists and pedestrians to use these roadways if deemed appropriate by the municipality—particularly if the roadway is the safest available route. The Transportation Committee gave this bill a favorable report last week and it will be discussed by the full Senate as early as this week.

Plug-in Hybrid Bill (H.3059, Rep. Jim Merrill) SUPPORT
H.3059 would extend an existing state income tax credit of $2,000 for highway-speed, plug-in vehicles. The tax credit has an annual impact cap of $500,000 and is provided on a first-come, first- served, basis. Within three years, over a dozen hybrid models are expected to be available, providing economic, national security, and environmental benefits. This bill passed the House in a 64-40 vote last year, and last week after an objection was removed, this bill passed the Senate in a 27-9 vote, and then sent to the House for concurrence.

Coastal and Marine Spatial Planning (H.4703, Rep. Mike Pitts) MONITOR
H.4703 is a concurrent resolution to affirm the state’s authority in determining appropriate activities and uses of the state's water resources. Amendment language was added by stakeholders to recognize the critical role of states in federal ocean planning, including the gathering of coastal and marine spatial data. H.4703 was adopted unanimously by the House in March and the full Senate Agriculture Committee (Sen. Danny Verdin- Chair, Larry Grooms, Phil Leventis, John Matthews, Yancey McGill, Brad Hutto, Dick Elliott, Jake Knotts, Kevin Bryant, Chip Campsen, Kent Williams, Paul Campbell, Vincent Sheheen, Lee Bright, Tom Davis and Michael Rose) will discuss it Wednesday, April 25 at 10:00 am in Gressette Room 209.

Local Food in Schools (H.4200, Rep. Nelson Hardwick) SUPPORT
H.4200 requires the Department of Agriculture to create and maintain a program to encourage schools to serve locally grown, minimally processed farm foods. Last week the full House voted 98-0 to pass this bill, and it now goes to the Senate Agriculture Committee for consideration.

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