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Legislative Updates 2022: January 24-28

January 31st, 2022
By Megan Chase

WEEK 3 IN THE STATEHOUSE

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Deep Dive: Land protection bills to watch this year
  • Action Alert: Legislators need to hear from you!
  • Last week at the Statehouse

The legislative kickoff month of January has come and gone, with surprising snow/ice days and quick movement on several bills we're following. Read below for a breakdown of news from the Statehouse. 

Missed last week's update? Click here to get caught up on melting plastics and the Conservation Senate Briefing.


Deep Dive: Piecing Together Land Protection

It’s no surprise that South Carolina faces challenges from rapid growth and a changing climate — more intense precipitation events in the Upstate, sea-level rise and marsh migration on the coast, and rising temperatures throughout the state. Land protection has been identified by state leaders as a means to both preserve our unique natural heritage and increase our state’s climate resilience (not to mention the economic benefits of protecting drinking water, fisheries and habitat, public recreation areas, and working farmlands).

Currently, around 3 million acres of land in SC is protected, which accounts for around 15% of our state, and 2 million of that is public land. To achieve the goals outlined by the SC Office of Resilience as well as the Governor’s 2019 Floodwater Commission Report, our land trusts, municipalities, agencies, and industries must ramp up the rate of land protection.

Fortunately, there are several bills and funding requests to help make progress this legislative session:

  • The County Green Space Sales Tax Act (S.152) – authorizes counties statewide to establish a 1% sales tax by referendum to purchase and enhance county green spaces. Counties could exercise “home rule” to protect critical natural areas in their communities or improve access to existing green spaces.
     
  • The Trails Tax Credit Bill (H.3120) – provides a tax credit (10 cents per square foot) to property owners who allow a permanent, 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 Mine Permitting Bill (H.3892) – Protecting existing green spaces from irreparable harm is a crucial part of land conservation. H.3892 would prohibit DHEC from permitting mines within two miles of public parks and greenspace. Use this Action Center to ask your representative to support this legislation.

Agency Funding Requests

With almost $3 billion in surplus dollars and $2.4 billion in federal covid relief, state agencies have requested funding to make "generational investments with respect to land conservation." In this year’s state budget agencies requested:

  • $140 million — SC DNR requested $140 million in state funds to acquire around 20,000 acres around the state. This land would be incorporated into existing habitat management and heritage preserve programs.
     
  • $14.5 million — The SC Conservation Bank requested an additional $2 million in recurring state funding and $12.5 million in nonrecurring funding to support land conservation and expand public access to natural and historic areas.  
     
  • $200 million — The SC Office of Resilience requested $200 million in ARPA funding for green infrastructure and floodplain land acquisition to lessen the impacts of future flood events. This request was echoed by the Governor’s Executive Budget recommendation of $300 million for the Office of Resilience for green infrastructure and mitigation projects.

Our state’s land conservation goals will require these tools to build the network of resilient protected lands throughout the state. This legislative session, we support these bills and funding requests and we may even see other creative funding solutions introduced in the coming weeks. Stay tuned.


⚠️  ACTION ALERT ⚠️

Legislators on the Senate Medical Affairs Committee need to hear from you!

S.219 – the joint resolution to limit toxic PFAS chemicals in our drinking water – is scheduled for a hearing in Medical Affairs this Thursday at 10 am (watch that hearing here). Some Upstate senators have not heard anything from their constituents about this bill, so now is the time to ask your legislators to support this joint resolution! 

Use this action alert to contact your legislator.


News from the Statehouse

The Eminent Domain bill (H.3527) that would place long-needed agency oversight and guardrails on private, unregulated petroleum pipelines was recommitted back to its subcommittee Wednesday during a full House Ag hearing after stakeholders and lawmakers voiced concerns about last-minute changes made to the bill. You can watch how the conversation unfolded here.

The Wind Energy Bill (H.4831), filed by Greenville's Rep. Jason Elliot, sailed through the House LCI subcommittee and full committee last week and is headed to the House floor! As a reminder, this bill would direct the Department of Commerce to conduct an economic development study regarding offshore wind energy infrastructure with the goal of creating a roadmap to attract the offshore wind industry to our state.

Until next week...

Megan Chase
State Policy Director


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).

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.

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