Last month, the PACE legislation–that superb plan for helping homeowners pay for energy efficiency upgrades at no cost to the state–moved toward passage. But at a price. It was folded into HB 1871, which included among its provisions a dirty little secret: a policy to allow companies to divulge illegal emissions or spills to the Dept of Natural Resources and thereby keep the emission or spill secret from the public unless it poses a danger to human health or the environment.
Now, with the end of the legislative session coming at 6:00 p.m. this Friday, HB 1871, which passed in the House, is out of the Commerce Committee in the Senate, and all the better for its stay in committee. Because Sen Brad Lager, R-Savannah, stripped the dirty little secret out of the bill in hopes of improving its chances of passing.
But with the days dwindling to hours left in the session, will Majority Floor Leader Engler find time for the bill on the calendar? Maybe he would, if absolutely everybody loved it and it would take five minutes to pass it. But Sen. Ridgeway, R-Smithfield, opposed the idea in committee. She seems to think that if the wrong people were appointed to the finance boards that oversee the legislation, they might do damage to seniors who applied for the loans by creating liens against their homes and causing them to lose their property.
Ridgeway’s opposition might mean a lot of time spent in discussion, and time is a precious commodity this week. And besides, even if the Senate took it up and passed it, the bill differs from the House version; therefore, a conference committee would have to agree on a compromise version and then both chambers would have to vote on the final version. That’s a lot of complications. So who knows what Engler will do? It’s frustrating to see the fate of such a fine idea hanging in the balance.