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April 12th, 2020
By Shelley Robbins
If you tuned in to either the House or Senate this week (or both, as I attempted to do), you are probably scratching your head and wondering... what on earth just happened? In short, strong disagreement between the chambers over the fate of state-owned utility Santee Cooper became a sticking point that could not be resolved in a day. So one or both chambers will have to reconvene at least one more time.
The Legislature needed to pass both a Continuing Resolution (to keep the government running past June 30 at current funding levels) and a Sine Die Resolution (to determine what bills and issues will be taken up once the House and Senate can safely resume business). The House passed it's version of a Continuing Resolution fairly quickly and adjourned. That resolution had language that would restrict certain activities Santee Cooper can engage in (such as signing long term contracts) while the utility's fate is being decided. The House did not take up a Sine Die Resolution.
The Senate disagreed with the severity of these restrictions and passed a different Continuing Resolution. But the language both chambers pass must be essentially the same in order to move forward for the Governor's signature, and that did not happen. The Senate did take up and pass a Sine Die Resolution.
So the quickest solution to the problem would be for the House to reconvene once again and 1) concur with the Senate's Continuing Resolution and 2) pass the Senate's Sine Die Resolution. But this is politics, so... stay tuned.
One thing that they do appear to agree on is a mid-September timeline to return to take up a new state budget based on revised projections. The state would be operating under this current year's budget, carried over, up until that point (assuming the chambers can come to agreement on the two resolutions).
Budget Update: The SC Board of Economic Advisors met on Thursday and issued their first estimate of how state revenues will be impacted by COVID-19. The good news is that while revenues will drop significantly, a budget shortfall for the current year (2019-2020) is not expected. An existing budget surplus will cushion the current budget year which ends on June 30. Projections for 2020-2021, however, will continue to be a moving target. The BEA anticipates a rough beginning for the fiscal year followed by a recovery in the second half. The size of that recovery is impossible to predict at this point. The BEA's next update will be May 14.
Superb article, hot off the press: For the serious wonks, here is an absolutely superb article from this weekend's Post & Courier about how Hugh Leatherman became South Carolina's most powerful legislator. There are some Upstate references. Did you know that Harvey Peeler (Cherokee County) and Hugh Leatherman were Democrat freshman senators together in 1981? They now hold the two most powerful positions in the state.
Next Webinar's Registration Is Open
April 14 at 11:30am: Protecting the Landscapes We Love (hopefully featuring Senator Vincent Sheheen)
This webinar will focus on current land protection efforts at the state and federal levels. We’ll share information about the new “Thirty by Thirty” conservation goals in South Carolina and in Congress, that aim to protect 30% of our land and water by 2030. We’ll also chat about how we can accomplish this bold goal, through policies and programs like the Land and Water Conservation Fund.
Recording of the previous webinars are available
Watch The Energy Freedom Act and the Public Service Commission here (featuring Senator Tom Davis)
Watch Santee Cooper and Clean Energy here (featuring Representative Nathan Ballentine)
Watch Offshore Drilling here (featuring Congressman Joe Cunningham)
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 (times TBD):
April 22: Earth Day with Conservation Voters of South Carolina
Week of April 27: Advocacy 101 with Audubon SC and CVSC
May 7: Commercial Composting and the End of Landfills? with Upstate Forever and Atlas Organics
May 14: Shoreline Issues with the SC Environmental Law Project
May 19: Will We Have Enough Water in 20 Years? with Upstate Forever and Congaree Riverkeeper
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).
Did your senator or representative do something awesome this week? Tell them! Use this link to find out who represents you, and if you love a bill they are supporting, please let them know. You can also just use the link to tell them what is important to you.
I will continue to send out weekly updates about Statehouse and Conservation Coalition activity. Until next week!
Energy and State Policy Director