Legislative Updates: April 3 - 7

April 12th, 2023
By Megan Chase-Muller

week 13 in the statehouse


  • Lobby Day successes
  • Support for farmland protection

Thanks to help from advocates who joined us for Conservation Lobby Day, it was a great week at the SC Statehouse. Read below for a recap of Lobby Day and the successful advancement of two of our priority bills.

We have just a third of the legislative session to go! While it can be challenging to predict which bills will make the finish line this year, we’ll do our best to stay engaged on legislation that advances conservation funding, promotes affordable housing and other sustainable development principles, and advances clean energy. 

Missed last week’s update? Click here for updates on bills that would promote affordable housing and the preservation of farmland.

A Successful Conservation Lobby Day

Over 60 advocates from across the state joined us at the Statehouse last Wednesday for our 20th Annual Conservation Lobby Day. Seasoned advocates and newcomers alike spoke with their representatives requesting support for our conservation priorities, including the Conservation Enhancement Act. Here are some of the highlights from the day:

Conservation Bank
The Conservation Enhancement Act (H.3786) passed the House and is headed to the Senate! For advocates joining us on Lobby Day, it was thrilling to see the bill receive this kind of support.

An amendment was added by Representatives Phillip Lowe and Bruce Bannister that ensures the amount appropriated to the Bank’s Trust Fund through the deed stamp revenues is more closely linked to the state’s general fund, adjusting annual Trust Fund allocations to match the percentage change in projected general fund revenues (either above or below). The conservation community was supportive of this change.

Did your representative vote in favor of this bill? Thank them! You can check the vote count here and find your legislators’ contact info here.

DHEC split
The House version of the DHEC Restructuring Bill (H.4124) passed the House last week without amendment - another positive outcome of last week’s Lobby Day! In last week’s update, we discussed this bill as a version we can ultimately support.

As amended in committee, this bill allows the State Water Planning process to remain at the Department of Natural Resources. It preserves the 2018 compromise involving the automatic stay of DHEC permit decisions and directs the Department of Administration to determine the most efficient and effective means of restructuring.

Senate Budget
While the Senate was in a perfunctory session, the Senate Finance Committee passed its version of the state budget, which retained funding prioritization for conservation. You can view the Senate’s proposed budget here, or read below for highlights. 

  • $25 million to the Conservation Bank for one-time conservation grant funds for a total of $32.5 million for projects (a bump up from $18 million in the House)
  • $20 million in one-time funds to DNR for habitat protection and land conservation acquisitions (no difference in the House version)
  •  $11.75 million in one-time funds to PRT for state park development, upgrades, and maintenance (down from $25 million in House)
  • $4 million to DNR for the State Water Plan (up from $3 million in House)

We celebrated the successes and capped off the day with 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.

The Week Ahead

Wednesday (4/12) at 11 am: The Working Agricultural Lands Preservation Act (H.3951) will receive a hearing in a Senate Agricultural and Natural Resources Committee. We have been promoting this bill as a much-needed mechanism for farmland protection. While the hearing is not scheduled to be live-streamed, Upstate Forever will be well-represented and will stand by our partners at the SC Farm Bureau and Conservation Bank in support of this important legislation.

Until next week...

Megan Chase-Muller
State Policy Director

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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