How Upstate Forever is responding to COVID-19

Our Greenville and Spartanburg offices have closed while Upstate Forever staff work from home to help protect the health of each other, our families, and our communities. But while we are not together in the office, we remain together in our continued efforts to protect our region's critical lands, waters, and unique character.

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Legislative Updates 2020: April 13-17

April 19th, 2020
By Shelley Robbins

The Governor Weighs In

The highlights:

  • Executive and Legislative balance of power
  • A Peek Behind the Curtain
  • Upcoming webinars
  • Past webinars' recordings available

The details:

Last week, I reported that the House and Senate had convened for one day but failed to reach consensus on the two resolutions that are needed to keep the state functioning. This past week, Governor Henry McMaster sent a letter to both bodies advising them to avoid coming back again in May and instead he would call them back in June when it is hoped that the COVID-19 threat has diminished. The problem with this offer, however, is a nuance of procedure and power.

If the House and Senate fail to pass a Sine Die Resolution by May 14, and if the Governor then calls them back in June, then the Governor has the authority to set their agenda. So the Legislature must reconvene themselves on or before May 14 (sine die) if they are to maintain control of their agenda. It is important to note that the Governor has not expressed any intention of dictating the House and Senate priorities, but the mere fact of this Executive branch authority could be problematic to the Legislative branch.

Therefore I will not be surprised if the Legislature reconvenes for one day by May 14 to take one more shot at passing both a Continuing Resolution and a Sine Die Resolution, but they will wait as long as they can so that they can have a more accurate understanding of the evolving economic situation. You can also bet that legislators are staying very busy on the phone with each other trying to resolve these issues.

Read more about these two resolutions and what is at stake here and here.

A Peek Behind the Legislative Update Curtain

Since I am staying home in Spartanburg during the COVID-19 crisis, and I haven't been anywhere near Assembly Street in Columbia since mid-March, how do I keep you informed on Statehouse developments? For that I rely on Upstate Forever's superb contract lobbyist Benton Wislinski of BGW Solutions.

 A native and current resident of Columbia, SC, Benton spent several years in Washington, DC managing government affairs for national non-profit organizations before returning to SC. Prior to launching his government relations business, Benton also worked in South Carolina and Virginia state offices and in a South Carolina Congressional office before managing several state and local campaigns. He is a graduate of the Honors Program at Randolph-Macon College as well as the George Washington University Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration.

Benton has represented Upstate Forever (and therefore you) for two years, and he continues to work to communicate our conservation interests to legislators, though more often he is on the phone, also safely working from home, rather than in the lobby. Benton is our eyes and ears in Columbia as well as our voice. Thank you Benton!

CONVERSATIONS WITH CONSERVATIONISTS Webinars

April 21 at 11:30: Climate and Solar Energy: Ask the Experts! Register here

This discussion will focus on climate change impacts in South Carolina and the importance of transitioning to a clean energy economy. We’ll also share some basics about solar energy, providing an opportunity to ask questions from experts, including:

  • Professor Norman Levine, College of Charleston
  • Stacey Washington, South Carolina Office of Regulatory Staff
  • Tyson Grinstead, SunRun

April 29 at 12pm: Advocacy 101 | Register here

“Advocacy 101" is designed to give you the foundational skills needed to stand up for the conservation issues you care about – both in our local communities and with our elected leaders – and make sure that your voice is heard, even from home.

Recording of the previous webinars are available:

Upcoming Webinars

A tentative schedule of upcoming webinars follows. The dates may be tweaked slightly and we may add some based on your input, but for now, here's the plan.

May 7 (Time TBD): Commercial Composting and the End of Landfills? with Upstate Forever and Atlas Organics
May 14 (Time TBD): Shoreline Issues with the SC Environmental Law Project
May 19 (Time TBD): Will We Have Enough Water in 20 Years? with Upstate Forever and Congaree Riverkeeper

ODDS AND ENDS AND ACTIONS:

Would you rather receive these weekly Legislative Updates in your inbox? You can sign up to do so right here. The Legislative Update will hit your mailbox every Sunday evening during session (January through May).

This would have been Week 14 out of 18, but that is all out the window. I will continue to send out weekly updates about Statehouse and Conservation Coalition activity. Until next week!

Shelley Robbins
Energy and State Policy Director

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