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March 21st, 2022
By Megan Chase
Eight weeks seems like plenty of time to pass legislation before the end of the 2022 session — right? Not so much. Remember that a bill must pass through at least one chamber before the “crossover” deadline of April 10, and we have just nine legislative days before then. With the House on furlough this week, that leaves little time for action on bills that are still in committee or have yet to receive a floor vote, like the Trails Tax Credit Bill and the Conservation Enhancement Act.
Missed last week’s update? You can find a review of where our bills stand at the halfway point here.
House breezes through budget
What we anticipated the House taking a full week to debate was accomplished in one day, thanks to strong leadership from House Ways and Means and new House budgetary rules. The House got through their mammoth $14 billion budget (H.5150) on Monday, passing it over to the Senate Finance committee on Tuesday, and carrying with it record funding for conservation.
DHEC Restructuring Bill (S.2) passes Senate
Last Thursday, the Senate passed the bill that would split DHEC into two agencies after hours of debate and, to our surprise, a few amendments that addressed concerns over permit decisions and state water planning. The bill as written would remove the DHEC Board and its internal review of permit decisions, in addition to a process that allows citizens to challenge controversial permits and staff decisions and places a hold or “automatic stay” on the permit’s proposed activities – like filling in a wetland – for 90 days. An attempt was made by Senators Hutto and Massey to restore the automatic stay and a 30-day window for contesting controversial agency decisions, but this was ultimately whittled down to five days.
Senator Campsen’s amendment to restore DNR’s authority over water quantity planning (i.e., the State Water Plan) did not make it into the final version of S.2, meaning all water planning would fall under the new Department of Environmental Services. Now we wait to see what will happen on the House side, but we don’t expect substantial changes.
Progress on PFAS stalled
After months of meetings and advocacy — thank you to everyone who reached out to legislators on this issue — the PFAS bill (S.219) was halted in the Senate Medical Affairs Committee last week in favor of a budget solution and they will not take it up again. This bill would have authorized DHEC to address ongoing contamination of toxic PFAS chemicals that have been found in several Upstate drinking water sources (Enoree River, Lake Greenwood, Reedy River, Broad River/Lake Welchel, and the North and South Tyger Rivers).
With the House on furlough, we’re expecting a more quiet week at the Statehouse. With that in mind, now is a great time to read up on the bills we’re tracking, and ask your legislator (or thank them) for their support.
After an initial meeting earlier this month, the Electricity Market Reform Study Committee will meet on March 23rd at 9 am (you can watch the hearing here). Created by the passage of Act 187 in 2020, the purpose of this group is to study electricity market reforms and their benefits to South Carolina ratepayers, including measures to accelerate emissions reductions and competition through the state. Click here for a deep dive on this legislation from 2020.
The Senate is still in session this week and Senate Finance subcommittees will continue to hear from agencies on their budget requests. So far, we’re not hearing too many differences from the House version of the budget.
Until next week...
State Policy Director
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