BRIEFS: From plastic bags to education policy and Fritz Hollings

Plastic bag bill is more about limiting home rule, greenies say

Staff reports  |  Who knew there was a “plastic bag lobby?”  But there apparently is, according to environmental activists who are trying to thwart an effort to limit local governments’ abilities to make decisions about how they want to deal with waste in their boundaries.

In recent weeks, Isle of Palms and Folly Beach have banned plastic bags and Styrofoam containers as a way of keeping debris out of streams and the ocean.  According to the S.C. Coastal Conservation League, “Communities up and down our coast are exploring ways to reduce single-use plastic items in order to keep our beaches clean and our sea creatures safe. Plastic products are easy to discard and break down into smaller bits called microplastics, harming sea turtles, dolphins, whales, and birds. Those microplastics also work their way through the food chain, through fish and ultimately to humans.”

But a House committee this week approved, with amendments, a bill (H. 3529) that would keep local governments from deciding how to deal with waste streams.

The bill, detractors say, is an incursion into local home rule because it would allow the state to act as nanny on things that should be local.  The measure really isn’t a referendum on whether plastic bags should be banned, said SCCCL’s Katie Zimmerman:  “ In fact, the bill is more about local control than anything else, and I think that point is somewhat lost. The bill is a tremendous overreach and it’s pretty shocking that legislators don’t seem to mind impeding local governments’ abilities to respond to their constituents and address problems at a local scale when needed.”

The House bill may be up for a floor vote early next week.  If it passes, it would go to the Senate where some legislative critics are getting fired up against it.

Common agenda for early childhood priorities unveiled

A new 2017 Early Childhood Common Agenda by leading state children’s advocates urges state leaders  to support working families and improve access to high-quality preschool and child care, to pass new tax credits for families and more.

They say among the state’s most pressing needs are more pre-K classes and high-quality child care centers. About 56 percent of the state’s 3- and 4-year-olds—or about 70,000 children—still do not attend preschool, according to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s annual KIDS COUNT report data.

The Early Childhood Common Agenda was created by Children’s Trust of South Carolina, the Institute for Child Success, and the United Way Association of South Carolina. Many other partners provided expertise and support for the agenda.

“Our state is making great progress in many ways, but we’re still allowing child and family poverty to hurt too many lives. We can work together on sensible solutions that leaders from all political perspectives can support,” said Jamie Moon, the president of the Institute for Child Success (ICS), a nonprofit organization based in Greenville.

The agenda calls for lawmakers to:

  • Pass new tax credits to help working families keep more of what they have earned to help cover expenses such as child care and transportation. A School Readiness Tax Credit or a state Earned Income Tax Credit. Child care costs an average of $1,180 a month nationally, and state refundable tax credits can boost savings, helping working families to avoid future financial setbacks.
  • Boost capacity and incentives for child care providers to participate in the state’s Quality Rating and Improvement System, or QRIS. A quality rating system is good for parents and providers. It encourages child care staff members to continue their education and training, and helps parents choose a high-quality early education provider that best meets their needs.
  • Expand voluntary home visiting programs to improve health and education for children from birth to age 5. Home visiting is a proven, early intervention strategy that pairs new, volunteer families with family-focused services throughout the child’s first, critical few years. The state is undertaking a $30 million expansion of the proven Nurse Family Partnership home visiting program, becoming a national model for the use of Pay for Success financing.

“We all must work together on these issues,” said Kelly Callahan Cruise, CEO of the United Way Association of South Carolina. “We thank the leaders from across South Carolina who devoted their time and wisdom to developing these recommendations.”

New book out on S.C.’s Hollings

The University of South Carolina Press has published a new scholarly work about the early career of Isle of Palms resident Fritz Hollings, a former governor (1959-63) and longtime U.S. senator (1966-2005).

The book, “New Politics in the Old South: Ernest F. Hollings in the Civil Rights Era,” focuses on Hollings’ early life and his public service from his return from World War II as an infantry officer to serving in the Senate during the Watergate era in 1974.  

The 208-page book ($34.99) is a revision of a doctoral dissertation by British scholar David T. Ballantyne, a lecturer in American History at Keele University in the United Kingdom.

According to USC Press, “New Politics in the Old South is the first scholarly biography of Ernest F. “Fritz” Hollings, a key figure in South Carolina and national political developments in the second half of the twentieth century. Throughout his career Hollings was renowned for his willingness to voice unpleasant truths, as when he called for the peaceful acceptance of racial desegregation at Clemson University in 1963 and acknowledged the existence of widespread poverty and malnutrition in South Carolina in 1969. David T. Ballantyne uses Hollings’s career as a lens for examining the upheaval in Southern politics and society after World War II.”

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