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February 21st, 2022
By Megan Chase
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Believe it or not, we're through a third of the 2022 Legislative Session and it has been packed with positive steps for land conservation and healthy communities. Read below for the rundown on last week’s news from the Statehouse. You can find recaps from the first six weeks here.
Conservation Enhancement Act gets a lift from state leadership
UF joined members of the conservation community and state leaders for a press conference on the Conservation Enhancement Act (H.4956/S.1039). Governor McMaster was joined by state agency directors and a bipartisan group of lawmakers to call for swift passage of the legislation that would create substantial revenue streams for land conservation and establish a statewide goal to double the amount of protected land in SC by 2050.
More news from the Statehouse:
S.901 – the “Solar on Superfund” income tax credit bill advanced to the full Senate Finance Committee. Sponsored by Upstate Senator Danny Verdin, this bill extends the sunset for tax credits granted to large solar projects that are located on Superfund and brownfield sites and makes a few clarifications to the bill that was passed in 2019. It is up before the full Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday at 3:00 pm.
The House and Senate versions of the American Rescue Plan Act funding bill, H.4408 and S.952, sailed through their respective chambers last week, signaling broad support for transformational projects in resilience and water, stormwater, and wastewater infrastructure.
S.1010 - The Return Flows bill quickly passed out of the Senate and was sent over to the House. This bill would enable water utilities to receive credit for the water that is returned to Army Corps lakes after wastewater treatment, which then becomes available for use in hydropower operations. Here in the Upstate, this would be especially applicable to Lake Hartwell and potentially reduce customers' bills.
S.219 – the PFAS bill – was carried over, meaning last week’s Senate Medical Affairs Committee hearing didn’t get to it on the calendar, so it will be taken up at their next meeting (TBD).
Conservation Voters of SC Legislative Reception
UF was well-represented at a reception for our partners at Conservation Voters of South Carolina (CVSC), an organization we have closely worked with on many key pieces of legislation over the years. It was a great chance to gather with other conservation groups and legislators to talk about ways we can work together to protect our state’s critical lands and communities. Seeing folks in-person (safely) felt like a small luxury.
The DHEC Reform Bill (S.2) we talked about last year, is up for consideration by the Senate Medical Affairs Committee on Thursday at 10:00 am. Over the summer, UF served on the SHaPE SC Taskforce alongside members of the business community and other stakeholders to discuss opportunities to improve DHEC’s ability to provide an immense array of services to our state. You can watch that hearing on Thursday at 10 am here.
The Appropriations bill that determines the state’s general operating budget for Fiscal Year 2023 - 2023 is up for an initial hearing before House Ways and Means. The past few weeks, we've discussed how requests from SC DNR and the Conservation Bank could make transformative investments in our state’s lands and waterways and help to ensure our communities continue to have clean air and water. You can watch that hearing on Tuesday at 10:30 am here.
The Trails Tax Credit Bill (H.3120) provides a tax credit (10 cents per square foot) to property owners who allow a public recreational trail easement on their property. Improving access to trails could bolster community health, alleviate overcrowding at public parks, and drive economic development. You can read more about this bill here. The bill needs additional support to be taken up by the Full Committee once budget deliberations are over.
Please ask your representative to sign on to this bill. If they have already signed on (looking at Upstate Reps Hyde, Caskey, Carter, Moss, Long, W. Cox, Gagnon, T. Moore, and Henderson-Myers), thank them! Take it one step further by asking members of House Ways and Means for their support.
The SC Conservation Enhancement Act (S.1039/H.4956) will require an enormous amount of support for it to move quickly this session. Even with the support of state leadership, we’ll need everyone to get on board to pass this legislation that would enable necessary investments in our state’s critical natural resources. You can read more about this bill here.
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Until next week...
State Policy Director
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