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Legislative Updates 2021: March 22-26

March 28th, 2021
By Shelley Robbins

WEEK 11 IN THE STATEHOUSE

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Budget passes the House, moves to the Senate
  • Deep Dive: SC Office of Resilience
  • Bill updates, hearings, and action centers

The House knocked out budget deliberations Monday and Tuesday, gave it third reading on Wednesday, and then sent it over to the Senate. The budget bill H. 4100 was read across the desk in the Senate and now heads to the Senate Finance Committee for deliberation. The House will be on furlough (aka vacation) this coming week. The General Assembly now has 7 weeks of deliberations ahead before they finish the year on May 13 (sine die).

Deep Dive: State Resilience Office and nominee Benjamin Duncan

Last fall, we were happily surprised when the General Assembly used some of its precious time during a short September session to pass S. 259, the bill that created the South Carolina Office of Resilience. In early March, Governor McMaster nominated Benjamin Duncan II to take the helm of that agency as the state's first ever Chief Resilience Officer. Mr. Duncan is currently the director of the Disaster Recovery Office, so he's no newcomer to the funding and coordination challenges that lie ahead.

The Office of Resilience will be charged with developing a statewide resilience plan, conducting a watershed study, administering funding to both respond to and prevent disasters, administering a revolving loan fund to help communities buy out and restore properties that now routinely flood, and coordinating the effort to incorporate resiliency into local comprehensive plans.

We noted back in the fall that the creation of this office will likely be as important to this state as the SC Conservation Bank, and we are very excited that Mr. Duncan has been tapped to lead it. During his Senate confirmation hearing, he noted that "Disaster recovery is a reactive mission. Creating resilient communities requires a proactive approach." Mr. Duncan has navigated the complex federal disaster response mechanisms for years, so we have confidence that he will be a tremendous asset to the state in this exciting new role. The last step in his confirmation process will be a vote by the entire Senate in the coming weeks.

We are also pleased that the House budget includes a reasonable amount of funding ($50 million plus administrative funding) for this office. Read more about Mr. Duncan's service to South Carolina here.

Bills On the Move

The Electric Vehicle Charging Station Bill S. 304 passed out of committee on Tuesday and will be on the Senate floor for second reading this coming week. Read more about EVs and this bill here. And here is a great article from Utility Dive about Duke Energy's new subsidiary that focuses on converting fleets to EVs. And here is an NPR story about an electric cooperative in North Carolina that envisions how EV fleets integrate with the electric grid and recognizes the relationship between broadband access, energy burden, and electric vehicles.

The bill that extends the electronic waste recovery and recycling program (H. 4035 ) passed the House 110-0 on March 17 and is scheduled for a Senate Agriculture Committee hearing on Wednesday, March 31 at 11:30. Upstate Forever supports this bill.

The liquid petroleum pipeline eminent domain bill H. 3524, profiled here, passed out of subcommittee on March 16 and full committee on March 18. It is now on the House calendar for when they return on April 6. Upstate Forever testified in favor of this bill.

Some of the language in H. 3683, the Ratepayer Protection Act, was amended into H. 4062 in full committee week before last. Most of the original provisions tightening the rules for the SC Public Service Commission, the Office of Regulatory Staff, and the Public Utilities Review Committee were dropped. What remains is language authorizing the PSC to hire independent third party experts. H. 4062 is now on the House calendar for April 6. Upstate Forever supports this bill but would like to see the rest of the protections move forward as well.

Hearings to watch

A Senate Medical Affairs subcommittee will begin discussing S. 2, the bill filed by Upstate Senator and Senate President Peeler to break up DHEC into smaller pieces, on Tuesday, March 30 at 10 am. You can livestream that hearing here. It is anticipated that there will be several subcommittee hearings on this complicated issue.

The full Senate Judiciary Committee will likely take up S. 464, the bill to reform Santee Cooper, after the Senate adjourns on Tuesday, March 30. The Senate convenes at noon on Tuesday but adjournment time varies. You can livestream the committee meeting here.

ACTION CENTERS:

H. 3120 Trails Tax Credit Bill ACTION CENTER.

H. 3979 Solar HOA Bill ACTION CENTER.

H. 3514 PFAS Bill ACTION CENTER. Deep Dive on PFAS here. PFAS Lobby Week webinar featuring Upstate Forever's Clean Water Advocate Megan Chase here.

Until next week...

Shelley Robbins
Energy and State Policy Director

ODDS AND ENDS AND ACTIONS:

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