The Final Countdown
First things first – thank you all for a wildly successful Conservation Coalition Lobby Day and Oyster Roast! I had a ton of fun and you showed the General Assembly how important conservation is to voters. I’m already looking forward to next year.
It’s the Final Countdown: The clock is ticking with only six legislative days left before the end of session – and there is still a lot left to do. Let’s roll through CVSC’s watch-list:
- The Offshore Wind bill (H.4831) took a strange turn a few weeks ago when Senator Martin proposed some amendments relating to the Carolina Panthers. We don’t know what is going to happen next, but the CVSC team will be fighting to get our bill back so we can attract a green industry into the state.
- The DHEC Reform Bill (S.2) came up in the House Ways and Means subcommittee last week. Testimony at the committee highlighted the need for a more deliberative process as we consider the risks and benefits of splitting up one of our largest state agencies while abolishing others. To that end, the subcommittee, led by Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, adopted an amendment that would still split the agency. Rather than outlining the details, however, it directs the Department of Administration to analyze the circumstances and determine the best manner to efficiently and effectively reorganize and transfer all programs, services, duties, and authority of the agencies that the new Departments are going to absorb. CVSC supports this amendment. Splitting DHEC is going to have such far-reaching effects; it is important to do it as carefully as possible.
- The Green Space Sales Tax bill, S.152, was heard by the Ways and Means Committee last week. The subcommittee, led by Rep. Heather Crawford, amended the bill to give counties more flexibility if and when they choose to give voters a referendum to add up to a 1% sales tax to be used to benefit land protection efforts in the county. This flexibility makes it more likely that counties can pass these referendums so we support this amendment! It goes to the full House floor next. Ask your Representative to support S.152!
A Change in Leadership Speaker Jay Lucus announced weeks ago that he would be retiring from the House and stepping down as Speaker. An election was held last week to choose the next Speaker and the membership unanimously chose Representative Murrell Smith last week to take over as Speaker. Speaker-elect Smith has been a conservation champion for years and we at CVSC look forward to his leadership.
Of course, Speaker-elect Smith’s ascension necessitates a new chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, and Rep. Gary Simrill has been chosen to preside. Both Smith and Simrill will officially take their jobs on May 12 at 5:01pm (due to sine die). Rep. Simrill is due to retire from the House this year as well, so his tenure will be short lived. When a new class of legislators comes in, they’ll elect committee chairmen in December.
Where’d all that money go? Part 3: The Senate passed its budget last week and there were few amendments. The Senate stayed true to its tax rebate plan, and that means that the Senate and House budgets are off by a whopping $1.4-billion. How in the world do they reconcile that?
Good question – it’s anyone’s guess. The Executive Budget Office is expected to announce a little more money left over in the pot, and the House will get the first crack at allocating those dollars. But, as is often the case, the differences are likely to be worked out in conference committee after sine die. Stay tuned as your CVSC team fights for that money the House allocated for land conservation, PFAS remediation, resilience, and more!
In Closing: As session comes to an end, you can expect a lot of action on the floor as everyone tries to push their final priorities across the finish line. Next week’s hotlist is likely to come out later in the week in the form of a legislative wrap-up. Stay tuned!