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January 18th, 2022
By Megan Chase
The SC Legislature has completed the first week of the second year of a two-year session, and we’re keeping watch on the still-viable bills that did not pass in 2021 (click here for our recap from last year).
Every week through mid-May, our legislators will convene on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday for committee meetings and to take up bills on the chamber floors. The SC Statehouse website is a great resource to view the weekly schedule, access the chamber video feeds, and see what meetings will be live-streamed.
Wednesday, January 19th at 10:30 am
Upstate Forever is part of the South Carolina Conservation Coalition, an alliance of over 40 organizations working together on legislative issues that are important to our thousands of members across the state. Each year, the Coalition kicks off the session with a Senate Briefing to present our priorities. This year, we will highlight:
Our very own Upstate Senator, Thomas Alexander (District 1 – Oconee and Pickens) opened the start of the session as newly-appointed Senate President, taking up the role as fellow Upstate Senator Harvey Peeler (District 14 – Cherokee) stepped into the Senate Finance chairmanship. Notably, this is the year of the budget, and our state has been presented with an unprecedented amount in federal and state dollars — $2.4 billion in federal Covid-19 relief, a $525 million settlement from the federal government for storing plutonium at the Savannah River Site (SRS), and almost $3 billion in surplus revenue to be expended in the 2022–2023 state budget — giving the General Assembly essentially three budgets to develop in a few short weeks.
Here’s the general timeline... Over the summer and fall, we watched as state agencies presented their requests for Covid-19 relief funds to Senate and House subcommittees (you can find those here and here), and appropriations for SRS settlement funds are being discussed this week in a Senate subcommittee. House Ways and Means subcommittees will hear from state agencies in the first few weeks of session on their general budget requests and will develop the House version of an appropriations bill by the first week of March. After the bill is passed on the House Floor, the Senate will take up the budget and will make changes to the House version. With the extraordinary level of funding available, our state has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make creative investments where economic development and conservation goals align.
I recommend you read Governor McMaster’s Executive Budget, where his office recommends $300 million for the Office of Resilience for green infrastructure and mitigation projects, $100 million for a much–needed new public health laboratory for DHEC, $500 million for rural water and sewer infrastructure, and $24 million for electric school buses. Read it here
We are already off to the races after a busy first week of committee hearings, budget requests, and movement on several bills we have been following. Here’s what to look out for this week:
PFAS Joint Resolution - S.219
If you believe our state should prioritize public health and protect citizens from dangerous PFAS chemicals, please reach out to senators on the Senate Medical Affairs Committee and ask them to support this bipartisan joint resolution. These messages of support can make a big difference, especially if you live in the districts of committee members (check here) – Anderson, Greenville, Spartanburg, Oconee, Laurens and Cherokee.
Mining Bill - H.3892
Our friends at the South Carolina Environmental Law Project (SCELP) and the Coastal Conservation League need our help advancing a bill (H.3892) that would prohibit SC DHEC from permitting mines and landfills within two miles of public parks and greenspace. As reported by SCELP, our state has 137 landfills and over 500 mines, and currently, we don’t have laws limiting DHEC from permitting these facilities next to public natural areas.
After years of living through a pandemic where our outdoor spaces have become safe spaces for us to gather and recreate, we need to protect these areas now more than ever from the environmental harms that nearby mining and landfills present.
Stay tuned to hear more on the legislative issues we are tracking. We’ll continue to keep you informed on their progress and ways to get involved throughout the legislative session!
Until next week...
State Policy Director
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