Hotlist: January 29
Great seeing so many of you at our legislative kickoff last Tuesday. It was a wild success and a good time! Last week was really busy; let’s dive in:
Movement on Protecting Agricultural Lands: The Senate Finance Committee advanced the Working Agricultural Lands bill (H.3951), which would start a new fund at the Conservation Bank specifically geared toward their protection. It heads to the full Senate next week, where I hope to see it successfully cross the finish line!
A Whirlwind of Committee Work: Wednesday morning brought back-to-back committee hearings—here are some highlights:
- Funding Land Conservation:a House Ways and Means subcommittee heard from the Conservation Bank and DNR to discuss their budget requests for the upcoming fiscal year.
- The Conservation Bank highlighted that through June of 2023, the Bank has protected an incredible 422 properties totaling nearly 360,000 acres of vulnerable land. They asked for $22.5 million to continue this valuable work. We support this funding and will encourage the General Assembly to prioritize the Bank’s work in its appropriations.
- The Department of Natural Resources requested over $5 million in one-time dollars for the State Resilience Initiative and another $40 million for habitat protection and land conservation. Throughout the hearings, both agencies celebrated the partnership between their programs—we can’t wait to see more great work!
- A House Labor, Commerce, and Industry subcommittee met on H.4823, which mandates that nearly every state agency create an expedited system for obtaining permits. Essentially, payment of a fee would let you skip the line. Permitting is always a contentious topic at the General Assembly. We at CVSC support a clear and efficient permitting process, but the way we get there is through careful legislation and adequate funding—not through skipped steps and sloppy work. During the hearing, it became clear that the bill, as drafted, had a number of issues that needed addressing, and so the subcommittee adjourned debate. It is unclear where this bill goes from here, but we’ll be watching.
The State of the State: On Wednesday evening, the General Assembly hosted Governor McMaster for his annual State of the State address. Throughout his remarks, he praised our leading electric vehicle and battery manufacturing sector, emphasizing the balance between economic development and environmental protection. A Joni Mitchell quote added a touch of unexpected coolness.
The Week Ahead: We’ve got a few hearings to look forward to this week. On Tuesday, the Rural Infrastructure Authority and Department of Commerce will make their budget requests to a Ways and Means Subcommittee. Then on Wednesday, the brand new Department of Environmental Services (formerly the EC in DHEC) will make its inaugural budget proposal. A budget request can provide great insight into what an agency is prioritizing throughout the year – I’m looking forward to hearing about what our new environmental protection agency asks for.
One more thing: Have you ever wanted to try your hand at lobbying? If so, I’d love for you to join me at the SC Conservation Coalitions Lobby Day next Tuesday. The CVSC team will be there, along with lobbyists and staff from other conservation organizations to walk you through the entire process, step by step. You can sign up below!
Updates & Actions
Battery Storage Virtual Coffee Hour: Join CVSC later today at 2:30pm, as we chat with Aaron Schwartz from RMI, who will share his expertise on battery storage. Bring all your battery questions! Click here to RSVP.
SCCC Lobby Day & Oyster Roast: Join the SC Conservation Coalition, a statewide alliance of over 40 conservation organizations, next 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.
Highlights & Shoutouts
Another successful Legislative Kickoff Reception: Last Tuesday, we celebrated the start of session with legislators, partners, and conservation voters! Over the course of the night, many connections were made, relationships built, and important conversations had–all to build a brighter future for South Carolina’s environment and communities.
The SC Palmetto Leadership Academy: The Palmetto Leadership Academy’s inaugural session has begun! Shoutout to our amazing partnerships department for all of their hard work to recruit, train, grow, and support tomorrow’s conservation leaders. Stay tuned for information regarding the program and upcoming sessions.
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!