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Legislature: Odds now favor recycling bill, Cleary says

By Jackie R. Broach
Coastal Observer

The state Senate’s approval of a bill that would have more bars and restaurants recycle was one of Sen. Ray Cleary’s biggest victories this legislative session, he said.

The bill was given third reading on June 2, the last day of the regular legislative session, and will be taken up by the House of Representatives when the regular session reconvenes in January.

“I was able to get this through the Senate at great odds,” Cleary, the bill’s lead sponsor, said this week.

A similar bill he introduced in 2008 failed.

“Only time will tell,” but with this latest bill (S.461), Cleary said he expects the hardest part is over.

“It’s much more difficult to pass a bill through the Senate, because one senator has the ability to block legislation to a degree and there’s a lot more debate on it,” he explained.

“When you’re asking people to get out of their comfort zones, it’s always contentious. Just look at what happened with seat belts and air bags, but I don’t think anybody now would buy a car without those things.”

Cleary said he believes his bill will go forward and have a similar effect for recycling, “bringing recycling up to where it needs to be in this state.”

The bill requires holders of permits for on-site consumption of alcohol to develop recycling plans guided by the state Department of Health and Environmental Control. Permit holders would then have to get bids for implementing the plans.

If bids show a recycling program would not increase a permit holder’s total annual cost for solid waste disposal by more than 14 percent, recycling would be mandated.

Recycling of glass won’t be required if a financially feasible means of collection is not available and the permit holder has documentation to support an exemption.

The bill would also give a 10 percent discount on permit applications and renewals for eight years if a recycling plan that includes glass is implemented.

“We don’t want to put bars and restaurants out of business,” Cleary said. “We’ve always said it has to be economically feasible. If it isn’t, they don’t have to do it.”

Cost was a major concern for bar and restaurant owners who contacted Cleary about the bill earlier this year.

Violation of the recycling mandate would come with fines, but would not be grounds for denial, revocation or non-renewal of an alcohol permit. That was another concern for business owners.

A fee on trash that goes into landfills that was originally tied to the legislation was also removed.

Cary Chamblee, a lobbyist for the S.C. Chapter of the Sierra Club and a veteran employee of the state Department of Natural Resources, said he will begin working with House members this summer in hopes of getting the bill passed next year.

“I can’t say enough about Ray Cleary and how he has really worked this bill,” Chamblee told the Sierra Club’s Winyah group at a meeting this week.

He also gave updates on several other bills of interest to the club, including a House bill that prohibits the manufacture, use and sale of detergents containing phosphate in amounts greater than 0.5 percent. It achieved second reading in the Senate and will be up for third reading in January.

“It will probably pass very quickly,” Chamblee said.

A House bill that pertains to sewage pollution also received second reading in the Senate. It would require any wastewater utility with two spills over 5,000 gallons each in a certain area to conduct a comprehensive audit to determine what caused the spill and fix the problems identified.

“It’s not onerous, but it’s tough enough and it’s the best we could do in the legislature,” Chamblee said.

While the regular legislative session is over, the General Assembly adjourned “sine die,” meaning it will reconvene Tuesday to take up several major issues left undecided, including next year’s budget and redistricting.

Cleary expects that session will end with a balanced budget and allow for the passing of several pieces of key legislation, including an illegal immigration bill, which Cleary said compares to the law passed in Arizona.

“The reason we don’t have it passed now is because the Supreme Court just looked at the Arizona law and found some unconstitutional issues,” he said. “We were making sure our immigration law takes those things into consideration. It’s a softer approach.”

Gov. Nikki Haley’s government restructuring agenda should also be taken up. Cleary said the sine die session is why the state supreme court ruled this week that Haley was wrong to call the legislature back on Monday for an emergency session.

“She can’t call us back, because technically the legislature hadn’t adjourned,” Cleary said.

He is disappointed with how Haley handled things, he added.

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