Session is coming to a close and things are starting to get… interesting. Let’s jump in!
The Lay of the Land: We’ve got nine legislative days left at the end of this two year session. Any bills that don’t pass both bodies by May 12th are dead unless they are included in the sine die resolution. There are some big, controversial bills left to be finished (some conservation-related, some not): the DHEC Reform bill, the Budget, Medical Marijuana, Certificate of Need, and others.
Further, legislators will likely employ their last-ditch efforts to get their personal projects done, oftentimes by sticking them on to other bills via amendments. It all makes for an unpredictable and often surprising final three weeks – you never know what’s going to happen. A case in point…
Offshore Wind takes a Strange Turn: The Offshore Wind Industries bill, H.4831, came up for second reading on the Senate floor last Tuesday. This bill has faced a relatively easy path through the House and Senate LCI Committees (thanks to you for contacting your legislators!), and we expected that trend to continue.
We were shocked, however, when Senator Martin introduced an amendment that struck the lines that directed the Department of Commerce to conduct a study on how to best attract offshore wind turbine manufacturers to the State. His amendment replaced those lines with a directive to Commerce to study the economic viability of attracting an offshore headquarters for the Carolina Panthers. Imagine our horror when the Senate unanimously adopted this amendment.
There are other amendments on the line and the bill has yet to get second reading. We’ll be working hard to get our language back, whether that happens on the Senate floor or in a Conference Committee, so stay tuned!
Where’d all that money go? Part 2: The full Senate Finance committee completed its budget a few weeks ago, and they are set to debate it on the Senate floor this week. Here is a breakdown of where the differences between the House and Senate budgets are as of now:
|Line Item||House Provision||Senate Provision|
|PFAS remediation fund||$25-million||$2.5-million|
|New Lab for DHEC||$104-million||Money for this is in Senate’s ARPA bill|
|Land conservation at DNR||$68-million||$30-million|
|Conservation Bank: Conservation Grant Funding**||$32-million||$8-million|
|Office of Resilience: Disaster Relief and Resilience Reserve Fund||$87.5-million||$1 (this is a negotiating tool)|
As you can see, the two chambers are millions of dollars apart on these conservation priorities. The Senate is set to take up the budget on the floor this week, so we’ll see what the final version looks like soon. In all likelihood, this will get negotiated heavily in the Budget Conference Committee.
The Week Ahead: With so few legislative days left and so much to do, next week is chock-full of meetings and events:
- The Conservation Coalition’s Annual Oyster Roast and Lobby day is Tuesday – see below for details!
- The DHEC Reform bill, S.2, has been scheduled for a subcommittee hearing on Tuesday. We did a Deep Dive into this bill earlier in the session that mentions our concerns.
- The Green Space Sales Tax bill is up for a hearing on Wednesday. It authorizes counties to establish a 1% sales tax through a referendum, where the funds generated from the sales tax (if approved by the voters) would benefit land protection efforts in the county. Originally limited to coastal counties, the Senate amended the bill to allow counties from all regions of the state to put a referendum in front of its voters. We are happy to support this bill and will be watching closely as it moves through the Ways and Means Committee.
Conservation Coalition Lobby Day & Oyster Roast: We’re a day away from our annual lobby day and oyster roast. After missing the last two years, we can’t wait to see you! Please join Conservation Voters and the SC Conservation Coalition for a fun day of advocating and celebrating conservation tomorrow, Tuesday,April 26th. Click here to sign up!