Legislative Hotlist: February 28, 2023
Last week continued to be dominated by conservative social policy. When the General Assembly is ready to take on some conservation issues this session, we’ll be ready. It’ll be a breath of fresh air (sorry, I had to). Let’s dive in:
By the Numbers: The Ways and Means Committee voted in favor of the appropriations bill last week. It will come up for debate in mid-March, but in the meantime, let’s have a look over the numbers:
- The Rural Infrastructure Authority (RIA) got $7 million for water quality revolving loan fund matches and for assistance for small and rural utilities. If this seems low, remember that RIA was allocated over $500 million in ARPA dollars in H.3604.
- The Office of Resilience got $20 million for its Disaster Relief and Resilience Reserve Fund.
- DHEC got:
- $5.6 million for permitting services
- $4.5 million for “sustaining agency workforce through competitive salaries”
- $47.5 million for the Dam Safety Emergency Fund (almost all of this will go to the Contestee Dam site).
- The Department of Natural Resources got:
- $6 million for employee recruitment and retention
- $20 million for habitat protection and land conservation acquisitions
- $10 million for marine resources and coastal infrastructure maintenance
- $3 million for state water planning
- Finally, the Conservation Bank got $18 million for conservation grant funding.
Overall, not bad! There has clearly been a recognition that some of our agencies aren’t paying enough to retain quality staff, so that was a theme throughout the various agency allocations. The land conservation funding is lower than last year, but still a very good sign in a slimmer budget year. After all was said and done last year, the budget allocated $68 million to land protection between DNR and the Conservation Bank. Remember that the House allocated more and the Senate less, and they came out somewhere in between. Our starting point this year is half of what we were awarded last year–so, not great. We can’t expect every year to be a $68-million year, but we hope to make up some of the difference going forward.
DHEC Reform is Back: This week, the Senate Medical Affairs Committee is hearing Senator Peeler’s DHEC Reform bill, S.399. The bill has gone straight to the full committee without a subcommittee hearing or any opportunity for public input. Last year, CVSC and the conservation community worried that its speedy passage through the Senate meant that the bill wouldn’t get the thorough vetting it required. DHEC reform is a complicated topic with far-reaching consequences in both the environmental and public health spheres. If the General Assembly is going to break up this agency, it needs to do it in a way that makes the most sense for the taxpayers, public health, and the environment. We have to recognize how vital a strong environmental permitting agency is to the health of our state. As we assess strategic options for amending this legislation, we’ll keep you posted.
Happy Rosenwald School Day! Representative Pat Henegan introduced a resolution (H.3968) to establish February 28th as Rosenwald School Day in South Carolina to honor the philanthropic work done by Julius Rosenwald and Booker T. Washington toward the advancement of education for African Americans in the South. This day brings us one step closer to educating everyone on these cultural landmarks and to ensuring they’re protected and cherished in the future. We held a press conference this morning to recognize these schools and the legacy of their alumni!
National News: League of Conservation Voters (LCV) tracked how members of Congress voted on the most important environmental and democracy votes of 2022, and the results are in. We would like to congratulate Congressman Clyburn for an impressive score of 95! Check to see how South Carolina’s other members of Congress did at scorecard.lcv.org.
That’s a wrap for this week—don’t forget to check out the full list of bills we’re tracking on our website.
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!