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Legislative Updates: February 20-24

February 28th, 2023
By Megan Chase-Muller

Week 7 in the statehouse

Highlights: 

  • News from the Statehouse
  • Deep Dive: EVs in SC

House and Senate committees were hard at work last week considering a number of bills we have been following. Read below for a breakdown of news on bill movements and other conversations happening at the Statehouse.

Missed last week's update? Click here for a deep dive on Electric Vehicles in South Carolina.


House Budget prioritizes land and water protections

It was Budget Deliberations Week for the House Ways and Means Committee. Their adopted budget (click here to access) included $45.5 million for land conservation - $20 million in nonrecurring funds (i.e., one-time funds) to the Department of Natural Resources for habitat protection and land conservation acquisitions and $25.5 million to the SC Conservation Bank for conservation grants in a mix of recurring and nonrecurring funds.

This adopted budget also includes:

  • $3 million in nonrecurring funds to DNR to help complete the State Water Plan, a process Upstate Forever has been actively involved in since 2019. You can read more about the State Water Planning process here.
  • $7 million in recurring funding to the Rural Infrastructure Authority for matching grants in the Water Quality Revolving Loan Fund and providing technical assistance to small and rural utilities.
  • $25 million in nonrecurring funds to the Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism for state park development, upgrades, and maintenance.
  • $20 million in nonrecurring funds for the Office of Resilience’s Disaster Relief and Resilience Reserve Fund.

We would like to thank Chairman Bruce Bannister (Greenville) for his commitment to conservation and our water resources and we look forward to following this bill through the process as it heads to the House Floor in mid-March.


committee actions 

Workforce Development
The House Economic Development and Utility Modernization Ad hoc Committee met Thursday, mostly in an executive session not open to the public, to discuss legislation focused on improving the “education to workforce” system in South Carolina. We’ve been following this committee since it began convening over the fall, especially pertaining to ways to address the demand by SC residents and businesses for clean, affordable energy.

Incentives for Solar and Storage
The bill we discussed last week that would expand property tax exemptions for solar panels and energy storage (H.3948) gained 14 cosponsors last week, giving the bill much-needed support. Remember this bill’s pair (H.3949) would create a new sales tax exemption for solar panels and energy storage.

Additional Oversight for Electric Cooperatives
Last Thursday, a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee met to consider a bill filed by Senators Luke Rankin and Senate President Thomas Alexander (S.523) that would require Central Electric Cooperative to submit all proposed contracts and plans for generation procurement (that are independent of its coordination with Santee Cooper) to the Public Service Commission, Joint Bond Review Committee, and the State Public Utilities Regulatory Committee. No action was taken, but the Committee heard testimony from Central Electric.

In the context of the blackouts from December's winter storm, the conversation covered the challenges of continuing to provide reliable power with the unprecedented level of demand from new industries locating to the state. We have four electric co-ops in the Upstate - Blue Ridge Electric Cooperative, Little River Electric Cooperative, Laurens Electric Cooperative, Broad River Electric Cooperative - that could be affected by this bill.

Solar HOA
Another Senate Judiciary Subcommittee considered the Solar HOA bill (S.422), refiled this year by Senator Michael Johnson (York). This bill would prohibit HOAs from restricting solar installation that "cannot be seen from the street or a common area surrounding a residence.” This is a departure from the bill filed by Representative Adam Morgan in 2021 (H.3979), which simply stated HOAs are prohibited from enacting restrictions on solar energy systems (with no qualifiers on where those systems may be located). 

Heirs Property Commission 
The Senate LCI Committee reported-out favorably the Heirs Property Commission Bill (S.436), which we highlighted a few weeks ago as a mechanism to address legal and economic issues associated with Heirs’ Property in a statewide, collaborative manner. Senator Tom Davis offered an amendment that would add the SC Bar to the Commission and changed the reporting requirements to the General Assembly. The amendment also changed the way the Commission will be staffed – from the State Housing Authority to staff designated from the House and Senate by the House Speaker and Senate President.

Read more about this issue in our latest interview with the Center for Heirs' Property Preservation here.


the week ahead

Thursday (3/2) at 9:30 am: The Senate Medical Affairs Committee will consider the DHEC Reform Bill (S. 399), refiled this year by Senator Peeler and Senate President Alexander. This is the first time the bill has come up this year, and we are hopeful the Committee will consider small changes to address some of the more concerning aspects of the bill. You can read more about this bill here and live stream the hearing here.

Tuesday (2/28) at 3:30 pm: DHEC will present its budget to the Senate Finance Health and Human Services Subcommittee.

Tuesday (2/28), one hour upon adjournment: The House Agriculture Committee will consider H.3951, a bill we discussed last week that would create a program and selection committee adjacent to the Conservation Bank to oversee the distribution of matching grant funds to permanently protect working farmlands and timber properties.


Stay tuned for opportunities to get involved and learn more about upcoming legislative issues. 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:

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