Legislative Hotlist: April 18, 2023
Last week, the House was on furlough, so we only had the Senate to contend with. This week the General Assembly is moving full speed ahead—there are only four weeks until sine die (the last day of session)! What happened last week, and what do we expect this week? Let’s dive in:
Working Agriculture Lands Need Protection Too! Back in February, Representative Patrick Haddon introduced a bill, H.3951, that would protect working agricultural lands from being gobbled up across the state. It does this by creating a new fund at the Conservation Bank that would grant conservation easements to farmers that meet certain criteria. The bill passed the House and was sent to the Senate Agriculture Committee, where it was amended to include the language of S.280, the Conservation Enhancement Act bill. There were also amendments that addressed some senators’ concerns about funding and Board oversight. H.3951 heads to the Senate floor now, stay tuned!
DHEC Reform: The Senate Medical Affairs has both a sub- and a full-committee hearing scheduled on DHEC Reform (S.399) for this Thursday. Regular readers of my increasingly complex DHEC Reform story will know that the House successfully passed its version of a reform bill, H.4124, a few weeks ago. Of the two bills, CVSC prefers the House version, which allows for a more thoughtful study of the split by the Department of Administration. It also retains the critical automatic stay provision, which prevents irreparable harm to the environment when a permit is challenged. We have been working with the committee and our partners to inform them of our issues and concerns, now we’ll get to see the product of the committee’s work.
It’s Budget Week…Part Deux! The House’s first crack at the annual appropriations bill will be taken up by the Senate floor this week. Here is a breakdown of some of the numbers:
|House Budget||Senate Finance Committee Proposal|
|DHEC:$5.6 million for permitting services$4.6 million for workforce retention$47.5 million for Dam Safety||DHEC:$6 million for permitting services$4.5 million for workforce retention$30 million for Dam Safety|
|DNR:$6 million for workforce retention$20 million for land conservation$3 million for state water planning||DNR:$4.5 million for workforce retention$20 million for land conservation$4 million for state water planning|
|Conservation Bank:$18 million for Conservation Grant Funding||Conservation Bank:$25 million for Conservation Grant Funding|
Overall, the numbers aren’t far off, but of course, more is always better! Having these numbers so close together means that the conference committee process won’t be nearly as daunting. We’ll keep an eye out for any amendments. I’m optimistic that we’ll be in good shape by the end of the week. Knock on wood.
Energy Efficiency Introduced by Representative Deon Tedder, The Energy Efficiency Improvement Bill (H.4282) requires Duke and Dominion to pursue all cost-effective energy efficiency measures and also directs regulators to study new approaches to increasing energy efficiency in SC, including the creation of a statewide, third-party administrator for energy efficiency programs. Ask your legislator to support this bill!
Earth Day is this weekend! As fellow conservation advocates, we know you’re all about showing mother nature some love. If you haven’t decided on your Earth Day plans yet, we’ve rounded up some activities you might be interested in:
- Contact your legislators on current environmental issues.
- Donate to help us advance conservation policy in the General Assembly.
- Get outside this week and tag CVSC on social (@cvofsc) for a chance to win a 20th Anniversary sticker.
No matter how you choose to spend Earth Week, we hope it’s full of reflection, action, and inspiration in the fight to protect the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the land that nourishes us.
That’s all for now!
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!