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CAPITOL REPORT: House passes Energy Security Act, advances higher education bill despite opposition | Berkeley Independent

The House approved and sent the Senate a bill (H 5118) laying out the state’s energy policy over the next decade to ensure residents, businesses, and industries have enough power to meet the state’s growing population and economic development needs. The bill, the S.C. Energy Security Act, relies heavily on natural gas as a cleaner alternative to coal and acknowledges the potential of a proposed project to convert a former coal plant at Canadys in Colleton County to natural gas. That project is a planned joint venture of the state-owned Santee Cooper and Dominion Energy.

Despite the amendments I supported for greater use of renewable energy, lower fuel costs, and increased project transparency and accountability being unsuccessful, I want to assure you that your concerns were not overlooked. I ultimately voted for the bill, even with its limitations, to address the increased electricity needs in our state. The vote was 88-21.

The bill restructures the Public Service Commission, which regulates rates and services of public utilities, sets up an Energy Policy Research and Economic Development Institute to bring together experts in energy and public policy to look at renewable energy technologies, explore the area of energy generation and storage and to make energy policy recommendations. The bill also points to the potential of advanced nuclear generation, such as small modular reactors, noting that their compact size addresses problems associated with traditional nuclear power.

In a vote of 84-30, the House approved a bill (H 4289) that would prevent the state’s public colleges and universities from looking at someone’s political beliefs or considering diversity, equity and inclusion in hiring and admission practices. Under the bill, colleges and universities must report to the Commission on Higher Education a description of its programs that support diversity, equity and inclusion.

I supported dozens of unsuccessful amendments, which were debated for hours, in an attempt to ensure the bill would not impact academic course instruction or membership in student organizations.

I believe our leaders should advocate for policies that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion at our state’s educational institutions. We should promote a learning environment for students, faculty, and staff that includes all races, religions and ethnic backgrounds.

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