This weekend, CVSC staff were texting back and forth about what is going on in the world. At one point, someone shared a message that said, “Hang in there. Better days are ahead of us.” That stuck with me, and I tried to capture that spirit in this week’s Hotlist – focusing on both how our conservation work and our state as a whole will move forward in the coming weeks and months.
As we adjust to a “new normal” during this uncertain time, please know that the CVSC’s team first priority is the safety and health of our staff, supporters, and volunteers and their communities. That’s why we’ve canceled our events and activities and are looking at new ways to engage you in these efforts.
In fact, we see this time as an opportunity to continue to be creative with our organizing, meet people where they are, and invite them into the conservation community at a time when many are seeking connections.
Though our lives have changed dramatically in the last few weeks, we also recognize that environmental challenges are not slowing down. Therefore, the team at CVSC is still working to protect the South Carolina you love.
One way we are adjusting our efforts is by working with our partners in the Conservation Coalition to offer a 2020 Webinar Series (RSVP for the first one here). The webinars will provide an opportunity to interact with other conservationists, learn more about topics you care about, and let you know how you can take action on these issues.
The first webinar “What’s Up with Offshore Drilling” will be held this Thursday, March 26, at 2:30pm and will focus on the science, policy, and lessons learned in the offshore drilling fight these past few years. Our partners at the Coastal Conservation League, SC Environmental Law Project, and Stop Offshore Drilling in the Atlantic (SODA) will be the featured presenters.
You can RSVP at this link for the Offshore Drilling webinar. See more below about the other topics planned for this series.
Finally, in this week’s legislative update, the latest on legislative news is below. But, hopefully, there’s also a reminder that better days are ahead of us.
What happened last week?
Legislators from both chambers met to ensure necessary funds were available to address any needs that may come from the coronavirus. Then, on Thursday afternoon, Governor McMaster signed the emergency funding bill that allocates $45 million to the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) to fight against COVID-19. Read more here from the Post and Courier.
Legislators also spent time setting the stage for what to do with the state budget and remaining legislation if they are delayed in returning to the Statehouse. If they are unable to finish working on the budget this spring, it is likely they will adopt the 2019-2020 state budget in a continuing resolution, which would fund state government at last year’s levels.
While the Senate started the process to approve a continuing resolution, they did not finish it last week, given uncertainty around how long our social distancing efforts will have to last. So it is likely that lawmakers have to return to Columbia again, even if a longer-term delay occurs.
The Weeks Ahead
Better Days: Mark Twain once said that “he who has seen better days…knows their full value.” Embracing these famous words, CVSC and our Coalition partners will be unveiling different and creative ways to keep you engaged, educated, and encouraged as we navigate through these uncharted waters.
As mentioned in the intro, the SC Conservation Coalition will host a webinar series each week that covers topics ranging from clean energy, to land protection, to offshore drilling, to waste reduction. Our hope is that these webinars provide a welcome distraction, an enriching experience, a feeling of connectivity to others, and a glimpse of a better days ahead for South Carolina and the conservation movement.
That said, here is the schedule as currently proposed. We’ll share more RSVP links as additional details are finalized for these webinars:
- March 26 (2:30pm) – What’s Up with Offshore Drilling? RSVP here.
- March 31 (12pm) – Santee Cooper & Clean Energy
- April 9 (4pm) – Implementation of the Energy Freedom Act
- April 14 (Time TBD) – Protecting the Landscapes We Love
- April 22 (Time TBD ) – Advocacy 101
- April 28 (Time TBD ) – SC State Water Plan Update
- May 7 (Time TBD ) – Commercial Composting and Waste Reduction
We hope you can join us for these webinars as we want to remain engaged in issues that ensure South Carolina remains the beautiful state that we all love.
Tying up Loose Ends:
If the remainder of legislation session is delayed or canceled, we also expect lawmakers to return to Columbia to outline which legislative issues could be taken up later this year (in addition to the continuing resolution discussed above). Typically, only a few limited issues can be considered after the General Assembly adjourns in mid-May (also known as sine die).
These are generally issues like considering conference committee reports, vetoes on regular bills and the budget, and – in some situations – big issues like education reform or the fate of Santee Cooper. However, this list of issues may be larger this year if lawmakers decide they want to return to finish other outstanding policy priorities or topics.
But, for now, this is mostly speculation given the uncertainty of what is next.
All in all, however, it has been encouraging to watch our legislators on both sides of the aisle come together to decisively fight this virus and prepare our state for the worst while hoping for the best.
As we move forward, please continue to stay safe and healthy. We need you. So that we can become even stronger advocates for South Carolina, please also remain active and engaged from home. And, remember, we’re in this fight together.