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January 17th, 2023
By Megan Chase-Muller
The completion of the SC General Assembly’s first week of the Legislative Session brought a wave of excitement, new faces in the House, and renewed commitments to conservation from the Governor and lawmakers. Every week through mid-May, our legislators will convene on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday for committee meetings and take up bills on the chamber floors.
While we’ll keep you informed each week about important happenings and ways to get involved, 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.
With dozens of new faces in the House — including nine from the Upstate — we’re looking forward to working with legislators, residents, and advocates to advance legislation that:
Need a refresher on our priorities from last year? You can find those here.
Wednesday, January 25th at 10:00 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:
Please consider joining us in person! You can RSVP here and find the agenda here.
If you would rather tune in online, the briefing will be streamed on the Statehouse website here on January 25th at 10:00 am.
Please also invite your Senator! A personal invitation from a constituent is a great way to get connected to your legislator.
You can email me at email@example.com if you would like to coordinate travel or have any other questions.
Last week launched the first year of a two-year session, meaning bills that did not pass by May of 2022 will need to be refiled and work through the committee process from the beginning. You can find a list of our priority bills that fall in that category here.
We saw several key pieces of legislation pre-filed in December, signaling a renewed commitment to conservation and measures to protect South Carolina’s rich natural resources. This sentiment was reflected in the Governor’s own remarks during his inauguration address Wednesday.
A pair of bills we were excited to see introduced are the SC Conservation Enhancement Act (S.280) and the SC Public Lands Enhancement Act (S.281). You may remember the Conservation Enhancement Act from our advocacy last year and its bold call to double the amount of protected lands in the state by 2050. This bill would restore a portion of the deed stamp fee (25 cents of every $1.30 collected) to fund the SC Conservation Bank. Linking conservation to land development is a sensible approach to protecting land and water resources for future generations.
The Public Lands Enhancement Act (S.281) would help to ensure that the lands we do protect are maintained so that residents and visitors can continue to access and enjoy those spaces safely. It would do this by dedicating sales tax revenue generated from the sale of sporting goods and outdoor recreation equipment to a Capital Improvements Fund for use by agencies like SC DNR, SC PRT, and the Forestry Commission.
Lastly, the Trails Tax Credit Bill (H.3121), refiled by Spartanburg Representative Max Hyde, would expand public access to green spaces by providing an income tax credit (10 cents per square foot) to property owners who agree to add a voluntary, perpetual trail easement. This bill has been a top priority for us since Representative Hyde filed it in 2021. 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.
As the session gains momentum, stay tuned for opportunities to get involved and learn more about the legislative issues that affect our daily lives. 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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