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Legislative Updates 2024: February 5 - 9

February 12th, 2024
By Megan Chase-Muller

L to R: UF's Michael Coleman, Laura Smith, Ericka Berg, Megan Chase-Muller, and Erika Hollis

Highlights:

  • A look at the 21st Annual Conservation Lobby Day
  • New bill to increase tax credits for conservation easements
  • Working Agricultural Lands bill clears last hurdle and is headed for ratification
  • Energy still top of mind for lawmakers

Greetings!

Last week’s Conservation Lobby Day and Oyster Roast at the Statehouse was a heartening reminder about the conservation movement’s strength, diversity, and endurance. Read below for highlights from the day and exciting news for conservation.

Missed last week’s update when we discussed an important energy hearing, protection for endangered species, and the new environmental agency’s budget? Read the update here.


A Successful Conservation Lobby Day

Nearly 100 advocates from around the state joined us at the Statehouse last Tuesday for the 21st Annual SC Conservation Coalition Lobby Day to meet fellow conservation partners and to speak with lawmakers about our legislative priorities, including:

  • pollution accountability via the NPDES Signage Bill – H.4958
  • financial incentives for recreational trail easements via the Trails Tax Credit Bill - H.3121
  • ensuring alternatives like clean energy are prioritized to meet near-term energy demand before rushing to build natural gas plants
  • state protections for wetlands that are no longer under federal jurisdiction following the Sackett v EPA decision
  • and thanking lawmakers for passing the Working Agricultural Lands Bill!

Working Agricultural Lands Bill headed for ratification

In a fitting end to Lobby Day, the House agreed to Senate amendments to the Working Agricultural Lands Preservation Act (H.3951), enrolling the bill for ratification next week! Thank you to everyone who advocated for this bill and reached out to legislators. Please be sure to thank your legislators for passing this important Act that will help our state’s farming communities, water quality, and landscapes. You can find their contact information here.

L to R: Bryant Harrison, Representative Patrick Haddon (Greenville), Megan Chase-Muller, and Margaret Harrison

Always the best part of the day, we celebrated our successes and continued good conversations with lawmakers at an oyster roast! While our annual Lobby Day is a great way to get to know your legislators and other advocates across the state, there are always other opportunities to engage with your legislators.

Do you want to meet your legislator to advocate for a cause that matters to you, but don’t know where to start? We can help you draft your message or even set up a meeting. Contact me for more information.

You can read more about the day and view pictures here thanks to coverage from the Greenville News!


More News from the Statehouse

New bill would increase tax credits for conservation easements

South Carolina currently offers income tax credits for individuals who place their property under a conservation easement, proportional to the acreage conserved. While this is an important incentive to encourage participation in land conservation, the credit hasn’t been updated in over 15 years.

Imagine our excitement when we saw that Representative Patrick Haddon (Greenville) introduced a bill (H.5062) that increases the tax credit from up to $250/acre to $1000/acre. It also raises the total credit an individual may use in any given tax year from $52,500 to $105,000. Thanks again to Representative Haddon for continuing to champion legislation that removes financial barriers to land conservation!

Endangered Species Data Protection Bill on the move

The Senate Fish, Game, and Forestry Committee passed the Endangered Species Data Protection Bill (H.4047), sending it to the full Senate for consideration next week. Restrictions on the public release of rare, threatened, endangered, or imperiled plant and animal species have been implemented in 23 states, according to the State Newspaper. New data protections could benefit plants experiencing pressure from poachers, like the Venus Fly Trap (Dionaea muscipula – named the state’s official carnivorous plant in 2023) and American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius).

Ad hoc Committee advances new energy proposal

Throughout the past year, the House Economic Development and Utility Modernization Ad hoc Committee has met to identify challenges and solutions to meeting our state’s increasing energy demand, driven in large part by the influx of significant economic development projects over the past couple of years.

Last week, this Committee met twice to discuss the House’s answer to our energy challenges in the form of an omnibus-style energy proposal. We’re expecting the bill to be introduced this week, so stay tuned for an in-depth look at this legislation and how to talk to your lawmaker about it.

Until then, you can watch the hearings from last week here — scroll down to Wednesday, February 7 at 9 am and Thursday, February 8 — held one hour after adjournment.


Be on the lookout for opportunities to get involved throughout the Legislative Session and learn more about the 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...

Megan Chase-Muller
State Policy Director
mchase@upstateforever.org


Odds and Ends and Actions:

Did you receive this Update as a forward and want to sign up for it yourself? You can do so right here. The Legislative Update will hit your mailbox every week 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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