By Paul Gable
Internecine warfare among politicians over the issue of waste stream flow control is the current dominant issue of political discussion in Horry County.
The most recent round of the verbal battle over flow control began at last Tuesday night’s county council meeting when council voted 11-0 to support a resolution that urged state lawmakers to drop legislation that would allow free market capitalism in the waste industry and, instead, allow flow control, which is really monopoly government control, of the garbage generated in the county and the state.
A new round of flow control discussions took place at yesterday’s Committee of the Whole meeting of Horry County Council and will again be a subject of discussion when council holds a joint meeting with the Horry County delegation of state legislators Friday.
Reports of relatively heated discussions on the subject between individual legislators and individual council members are also heard on the political grapevine.
What makes this discussion absurd is that the issue has already been decided in Horry County. County council, at the urging of the Horry County Solid Waste Authority and, then, Horry County Attorney John Weaver, passed a county ordinance mandating that all waste generated within the county, regardless of who hauls it, must be dumped at the SWA’s Hwy. 90 landfill. This established a county wide monopoly over disposal of the county waste stream along with guaranteeing the SWA exclusive right to the tipping fees resulting from that disposal.
Shortly after the ordinance became law, a private waste hauler sued the county in federal court to overturn the legislation. That case continues, but, a portion was remanded to the S.C. Supreme Court to determine if the legislation conformed to state law. The S.C. Supreme Court ruled in the SWA’s favor deciding that flow control, as established by county ordinance, was in accordance with the procedure and regulations of the South Carolina Solid Waste Management Policy Act.
Now back in federal court, the case will be decided on whether the county ordinance violates the “Full Faith and Credit Clause”, the “Interstate Commerce Clause” and several other provisions in the U.S. Constitution.
In addition to filing suit, private waste haulers in the state banded together to urge state lawmakers to pass an amendment to state law specifically prohibiting flow control within South Carolina. This legislation, now being debated in Columbia, is the base for the current rift among county politicians.
Horry County council members support flow control while Horry County’s legislative delegation is supporting the current legislation at the state level that would prohibit it.
Neither position makes any difference to what happens to the waste stream within the county. The S.C. Supreme Court has upheld the legality of flow control within the county. The General Assembly cannot overturn the county ordinance even if it passes a law that makes flow control illegal within the state. The county ordinance is protected by Article 1 Section 10 of the U.S. Constitution which prohibits the states from passing ex post facto legislation.
The only thing that can end flow control within Horry County is a decision in federal court that would find the county ordinance unconstitutional.
Why does the argument continue within the county?
It’s a distinct possibility that some of our politicians, in both county council and the legislative delegation, do not understand the constitutional prohibition of ex post facto laws.
It’s also about money and lobbying.
The SWA is, apparently, afraid to compete in the marketplace against private industry landfills. There is considerable lobbying at the state level, on the part of private waste industry corporations, to pass legislation making flow control illegal within the state.
Horry County council member Harold Worley asked at last week’s regular council meeting for a list of lobbyists doing the bidding in Columbia of the private waste corporations.
Former Horry County legislator and current lobbyist Mark Kelley stands out in battle between the two groups of politicians. Among Kelley’s list of principles, for who he lobbies, on his filing with the S.C. Ethics Commission are Horry County Schools, Coastal Carolina University and the Grand Strand Business Association (the local PAC established by the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce.)
Horry County has dedicated millage in its budget for Coastal Carolina University. County council provides Accommodations Tax revenue in the amount of approximately $400,000 per year to the Chamber and it saves the school district money by doing the billing and collecting of tax revenue for the district.
Kelley also lobbies for Waste Management, Inc., a major player in the waste hauling industry. It could be argued that county council helps pay Kelley who, then, lobbies against it.
Only in Horry County!