Hotlist: January 16
Session has begun! And while not too much (for us) happened in the House and Senate Chambers, committees and legislators were hard at work setting the tone for the season. It was a busy week for the Government Relations Team as we got back into the swing of things. Last Tuesday also concluded with Alan and I getting stuck in THE most intense wind and rain storm – both of our umbrellas were destroyed, and I haven’t been warm since. Was it an Omen? I guess we’ll see. Let’s dive in:
Dollars and Cents: The House Ways and Means Committee always starts early with its budget deliberations. This week, subcommittees heard from various agencies to hear presentations on their needs. Some highlights:
South Carolina Office of Resilience:
- Requested $4.2 million in new recurring funds, in part to hire 11 new full-time employees.
- Requested $43 million for infrastructure projects and resilience work.
- Highlighted that they’ve replaced/repaired/bought out 3,998 homes (these are homes that have been damaged due to flooding and other natural disasters.
- Had a really robust conversation with Rep. Leon Stavrinakis regarding needing better tools for land use planning and weatherization.
- Had no asks but noted that they began a rate study in 2023 and that they are expecting results in June of this year. Once the rate study is complete, they’ll begin having conversations with stakeholders and ratepayers. You may recall that Santee Cooper, a utility owned by the taxpayers, has been under a rate freeze since the V.C.Summer nuclear fiasco—that freeze expires at the end of this year, and I imagine rates will increase sharply for their customers due to the high cost of coal and natural gas.
Energy News: We’ve been talking about an energy bill for a long time now. As legislators from both chambers reckon with our energy problems, we’ve been at the table all along advocating for a clean energy transition, advocating for a reasoned approach to bringing on new generation, and advocating for ratepayer protections.
Last Tuesday, Senator Tom Davis dropped an omnibus energy bill, S.909, and it covers a lot of ground. There is some great content in the bill, like near-term growth in clean energy and battery storage, changes to the energy marketplace to both encourage competition and save cost for ratepayers, and the inclusion of crucial policies to protect low-income ratepayers through energy efficiency measures.
However, the bill also includes a number of far-reaching rollbacks of the SC energy regulatory system, support of risky natural gas plants, and rollbacks to wetland protections. A number of these rollbacks undo safeguards and policies put in place to protect South Carolinians from another risky VC Summer-style disaster. On balance, we cannot support the bill as it currently stands.
We are committed to working with Senator Davis and all of the stakeholders to make this bill as good as it can be, but there is a lot of work to be done.
This Week: There are a lot of exciting things happening this week:
- Conservations with Conservationists – the Conservation Coalition is briefing the Senate on our top priorities on Wednesday, January 17th at 10:00 am. You can sign up to join the SCCC at the Senate Briefing using the RSVP link below!
- DHEC Reform update – the Medical Affairs Committee will hear an update on the agency split on Wednesday, January 17th at 10:00 am.
- Working Ag Lands (H.3951) – A Senate Finance subcommittee will hear testimony on the Working Ag Lands Bill. This bill adds a new fund at the Conservation Bank to be used for the protection of agricultural land – we support this bill and hope to see it across the finish line!
Updates & Actions
SCCC Senate Briefing | Join the SC Conservation Coalition on Wednesday, January 17th from 10:00 to 11:00 am for a discussion with SC Senators about the environmental and conservation issues critical to our state this year. Click here to RSVP
Legislative Kick-Off Reception | Join CVSC from 5:30 to 8:00 pm on Tuesday, January 23rd at Bourbon in Columbia as we welcome partners, voters, and legislators back for another year of protecting the South Carolina we love. Click here to RSVP
SCCC Lobby Day & Oyster Roast | Join the SC Conservation Coalition, a statewide alliance of over 40 conservation organizations, on Tuesday, February 6th, for our annual Lobby Day and Oyster Roast! Be a part of making an impact at the State House while networking and celebrating conservation with fellow volunteers, staff, and elected officials. Click here to RSVP
In the News
The Legislative Hotlist is an update from our Senior Vice President of Government Relations & Policy, Meagan Diedolf. Sign up for emails to get the Hotlist delivered directly to your inbox!