Legislative Hotlist: January 24, 2023
The second week of session is in the books! We’ve been working hard on getting our legislative priorities off to a good start and I’m feeling encouraged! Don’t forget to check out our bill tracking page, where we’re continuing to update legislation that’s been introduced. Also, be sure to join us in Columbia this week for our Legislative Kick-Off Reception and Conservation Coalition Senate Briefing. Let’s dive in:
Money Talk: As you know, the House Ways and Means Committee gets the first crack at the budget every year, and they get started right off the bat! Various subcommittees met throughout the week to discuss agency requests. There was nothing surprising, and we’ll continue to support our environmental agencies like DHEC and DNR.
Happily, the General Assembly has money to work with, as staff for the Finance Committee briefed Senators last Tuesday. But the needs of the state often outpace revenue.
This year’s theme in the House is once again, “transformative”. But, if you want to do transformative work, you need a transformational amount of money. The Inflation Reduction Act and the Infrastructure, Investment, and Jobs Act have both funneled an unprecedented amount of grant opportunities across the states. It’s going to take a systematic and coordinated approach to identify and take advantage of those funds.
The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA): Last week, the House Ways and Means Committee advanced H.3604, the ARPA and the Contingency Reserve Fund Bill. The bill allocated $500-million from the contingency fund to the Department of Commerce to fund economic development projects and $586.6-million in ARPA funds to the Rural Infrastructure Authority (RIA) for water and sewer projects. CVSC supports this use of funding!
The bill came up for discussion in the House on Thursday. After a dramatic debate, the bill was amended to prohibit House members from profiting off any ARPA dollars. In the end, the bill received second reading by a vote of 101-14.
Permit Extensions are Back… Last session, CVSC pushed back against a permit extension bill that narrowly timed out on the last day of session. Unfortunately, that bill is back. H.3209, introduced by Representative Jay Jordan, retroactively extends permits issued by DHEC that were current and active in 2018. Due to that date and previously passed permit extension legislation, DHEC testified at the hearing that the bill has the potential to capture permits from more than twenty years ago. CVSC is against this bill because land conditions—especially around the coast—can change dramatically, meaning that a previously permitted project could now cause significant environmental damage if extended without review.
One amendment was introduced and adopted by the subcommittee which excluded some permits—such as those governed by Federal rules—but the amendment doesn’t go far enough.
The Judiciary Committee is meeting on this bill today. We are encouraging them to construe the bill as narrowly as possible to limit potential environmental impacts, and we will let you know when we need your help.
DHEC Restructuring is Back…The Department of Health and Environmental Control has long been under the General Assembly’s microscope—and for good reason! It is important to have a strong environmental permitting agency. This year, Senator Peeler has introduced a new version of a DHEC Reform bill, S.399. This year’s bill is similar to last session and splits DHEC’s environmental and public health sides. Check out my deep dive on this issue in 2022 (short story: it’s complicated and messy).
If splitting DHEC is the policy decision that the General Assembly is headed for, we urge the legislature to do it the right way. That requires a well-thought-out, deliberative process that ensures no one and nothing is left in the lurch. We urge the Senate Medical Affairs Committee to reject or improve S.399 in favor of a more reasoned approach.
Join us this week!
Legislative Kick-Off Reception
Date: January 24, 2023 | Time: 5:30-8:00pm
Location: Bourbon (1214 Main St, Columbia)
Attend our Legislative Kick-Off Reception as we welcome our team, partners, voters, and legislators back to the State House for another year of protecting the South Carolina we love. Register.
Conservation Coalition Senate Briefing
Date: January 25, 2023 | Time: 10:00 am
Location: Gressette Building, Room 308
Join the SC Conservation Coalition for the 2023 Senate Briefing: Conversations with Conservationists, hosted by Senator Chip Campsen and Senator Thomas McElveen, as they discuss environmental and conservation issues critical to our state this legislative year. Register.
We hope you can join us! Please contact me via email with any questions: [email protected].
The Legislative Hotlist is a weekly update from our Government Relations Director, Meagan Diedolf. Sign up for emails to get the Hotlist delivered directly to your inbox!