COLUMBIA — The Senate threw out an attempt Thursday to halt all local bans on plastic bags and containers of any kind through the state budget.
The 27-15 vote came days after a ban on plastic bags, foam containers and plastic straws took effect in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina's fourth-largest city, and a week after legislation that would permanently void local limitations on single-use containers advanced to the Senate floor — offering a sneak peek at next year's expected floor fight.
Senate Majority Leader Shane Massey, R-Edgefield, argued there should be a statewide approach to addressing plastic litter, and the Legislature should stop the proliferation of differing rules while the sides sort out a solution.
Sen. Dick Harpootlian asked why restrict what local governments can do in the meantime.
"The answer is 'We know better?' " the Columbia Democrat said sarcastically. " 'Oh, we’re from Columbia, we know better.' We don’t!"
Massey's proposal would have barred local governments from enforcing all existing bans and prohibited any additional restrictions through at least June 2020. It was much broader than the legislation that has no chance of passing this year, applying to any local rule limiting the sale, use or transfer of any "consumer good." Massey complained that what began with a debate over plastic bags has "gone to other stuff," and he wanted a one-year hiatus on the entire possible range.
Coastal Republicans too cried foul.
Sen. Tom Davis, R-Beaufort, said passage would be a "public policy disaster" and send a "horrible message to people" who have organized and gotten involved locally to make a difference in their community that the state Legislature doesn't care what they want.
Emily Cedzo, a program director with the Coastal Conservation League, agreed the vote protected home rule.
Sen. Chip Campsen, R-Isle of Palms, argued a statewide approach doesn't even make sense, as restrictions needed in coastal communities to address the throngs of out-of-town beachgoers who show up on any given weekend aren't necessary for rural counties that get little traffic.
"This is inherently a local issue. There are very few communities that will increase their population 15- to 20-fold on a regular weekend day. The notion there needs to be a statewide solution I don't accept," he said. "We are different. The state's different."