We are almost half way through this year’s legislative session and it has been a real journey. We’ve got two weeks of action to get through so let’s jump in!
Big money: The House Ways and Means Committee finished its appropriations process two weeks ago. This is only the first step in a long process, but we now have an idea of how our state’s surplus is going to be spent. Buckle up for some big numbers:
- Land conservation was a huge priority of ours and it is reflected in this year’s budget – the committee allocated $100-million for land conservation across the state. That breaks down to $68-million to DNR to purchase new lands for public use and $32-million to the Conservation Bank. (Big shout-out to Representative Lowe who was so excited to present these numbers to the committee and to Chairman Murrell Smith for making land conservation such a priority!)
- The Office of Resilience had its reserve fund fully funded with $87.5-million to allow them to address weather events as well as complete their resilience study. This will be great as we prepare for an increase in serious weather events in the coming years.
- DHEC received over $100-million to fund a new lab which is going to be a game changer for both their public health and environmental programs. Representative Herbkerbsman compared their current lab to a poorly funded high school chemistry lab – so this is a needed improvement!
- The committee allocated $25-million dollars to a new PFOS, PFOA, and Emerging Contaminants Remediation Fund in order to begin removing PFAS contamination from drinking water systems across the state. (Again, a huge thank you to Chairman Murrel Smith and Representative Herbkersman who championed this proviso!)
Starting on March 14th, the full House of Representatives will have its chance to weigh in before the budget moves on to the Senate. The week of March 14 – or Budget Week in the House – is a crazy one with nights in the lobby that often go well past 1am. With so much money on the table, this year should be no exception. And with so much funding for conservation and environmental issues, CVSC is looking forward to digging in more next week!
Just to add to the “big money” excitement, the Senate Finance Committee will begin its deliberations this week about the budget. The Rural Infrastructure Authority, Department of Health and Environmental Control, and the Public Service Commission are all up for a hearing where they will present their Budget requests.
Polluter Accountability: We are so excited to announce that Representative Pendarvis has introduced a bill, H.5037, which gets us closer to our goal of protecting the land, water, and air we love from bad actors through responsible economic development. This bill directs the Department of Commerce to consider quality of life and balance the use and protection of our natural resources before they incentivize businesses and industries to relocate to our state. If a company has a history of permit violations or environmental crimes, the Department cannot use taxpayer money to entice them to locate here. Further, if an industry is new or unproven, they must have appropriate financial assurances in place before any taxpayer funded incentives are offered.
The bill has been referred to the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee – encourage your representative to sign on as a co-sponsor!
The Future of DHEC: Last week, we took a deep dive into what S.2 might mean for the future of DHEC. The Medical Affairs Committee decided to vote in favor of the bill – it now moves on to the full Senate floor, possibly as early as this week. Without a doubt, we have some serious concerns about the bill. CVSC wants to see an environmental agency that is efficient, successful, and accountable in its effort to protect South Carolinians and our environment from pollution – whether that is DHEC or an Environmental Services Agency. Unfortunately, indications from our sources on the inside say that chances to amend the bill in the Senate are limited.
Conservation Coalition Lobby Day & Oyster Roast: Join Conservation Voters and the SC Conservation Coalition for a fun day of advocating and celebrating conservation on March 22nd. Be a part of making an impact at the State House with fellow volunteers, staff, and elected officials.Click here to learn more and sign up!
SC Energy Progress Update Webinar – From VC Summer to Now: Join CVSC for a webinar this Thursday at noon on the Energy Progress Update, a new tool to help citizens understand energy issues in SC. We’ll cover our progress towards clean, affordable energy—and the hurdles we’re facing along the way. Click here to RSVP.
Thank you for all you do!