‘Twas Budget Week: A Lobbyist’s Poem
‘Twas the first day of Budget Week and all through my brain,
I was feeling nervous, excited, and slightly insane.
The lobbyists were gathered on a Monday afternoon,
all hoping that the members would show up soon.
As House Reps all nestled snug at their desks,
billions of dollars danced through their heads.
And me in my suit, coffee in hand,
Had just settled down for a night that was bland.
Just kidding, I am a terrible poet. It was budget week, though, and a lot went down downtown! Let’s jump in!
It was like Christmas Morning: Generally, the House’s Budget Week means long nights and lots of coffee. This year, however, the Members collectively ate their wheaties and they were able to give the Appropriations Bill second reading by about 9:30pm Monday night. All of the budget items we are excited about were passed by the full House. That means:
- $100-million for land conservation!
- $25-million for PFAS remediation!
- $100-million for DHEC’s new lab!
- $87.5-million for Resilience!
The Appropriations Bill has now moved to the Senate Finance Committee and your CVSC Government relations team will be diligently watching to ensure Senators are excited about these critical conservation items as we are.
It’s all political: Behind the scenes on Monday, however, there were whispers of big changes on the horizon. Vacuums to be filled. Speculations. These speculations began last week when the Republican Majority Leader, Gary Simrill, announced he was not going to run for office again. Then on Tuesday, the Speaker of the House, Jay Lucas announced his own retirement. Several other Representatives have announced as well: Sandy McGarry, Leola Robinson, Jonathon Hill, Brue Bryant, Joe Daning, Russell Fry, and Chip Huggins. That means there are going to be big changes next year: a new Speaker, a new Majority Leader, and at least one new chairman. I’m noting all of this because it will mean a lot of changes in 2023 as well as influence positions that folks may take in 2023 as the posturing for various posts begin. As the election season unfolds, I’m sure you’ll hear much more from CVSC about the impacts of the elections on these shakeups. Election filing has begun for the House of Representatives and continues through March 30. This is one reason that they are on furlough until March 29th – House members don’t want to take votes during the filing window that might motivate someone to file to run against them. Sigh…the intersection of politics and policymaking…
Clean Drinking Water: S.219’s fate was decided this week. Unfortunately, the Medical Affairs Committee decided to carry the bill over and won’t return to it because they feel that a budget solution is the best option. They will rely on a budget proviso that passed through the House this week. It is extremely disappointing to not see a stand-alone bill advance, but it is promising to know that our collective advocacy around S.219 has elevated the discussion and that Senators are looking at the budget to provide resources to address PFAS. Following on the meeting this past week, we at CVSC want to thank Senator Gambrell for his leadership on the issue. We appreciate his and Senator Kimpson’s commitment to stay on top of the EPA and DHEC as they continue their PFAS strategy. We are going to continue to fight to bring clean drinking water to everyone in our state, but sometimes the legislative process is a marathon rather than a sprint.
The Future of DHEC: Chairman Peeler’s DHEC reform bill, S.2, was heard on the Senate floor this week. S.2 Splits DHEC up into two separate agencies: the Department of Public and Behavioral Health and the Department of Environmental Services. We’ve expressed our concerns on the bill numerous times. We were pleased to see that Senator Hutto’s amendment to preserve the automatic stay of permits on appeal passed on the floor. The Automatic Stay is a mechanism that delays a permittee’s action on a permit when an appeal is filed. For example, if a developer wanted to build on top of wetlands and obtained a permit for filling in the wetlands, they could not begin work if an appeal is filed and the Automatic Stay is triggered. Without the Automatic Stay, the developer could fill in the wetland as soon as the permit is issued, even if the permit is appealed. The Automatic Stay, therefore, is a check and balance against bad actors causing irreparable harm to the environment while we wait for the administrative and judicial process to run their course. Note that we’ve fought about the Automatic Stay for years and reached a compromise in 2018 for it to remain – see our scorecard vote description here for more historic context. Following this and other perfecting amendments, S.2 passed unanimously and now heads to the House where it will be assigned a committee.
Conservation Coalition Lobby Day & Oyster Roast: Join Conservation Voters and the SC Conservation Coalition for a fun day of advocating and celebrating conservation on April 26th (Please note the date change because of changes in the legislative schedule!). 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!
Thank you for all you do!