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February 7th, 2023
By Megan Chase-Muller
The bill we discussed last week that would extend certain DHEC permits related to development (H.3209) came up for consideration in the House on Tuesday. With a longer-than-expected debate on the House floor, the bill ultimately passed and was sent over to the Senate. Remember that this bill was amended to clarify that it would not cover local government jurisdiction or permits authorized by federal programs (e.g., NPDES permits and 401 water quality certifications), and the effective date was moved from 2018 to 2020.
Another bill that made strides was the Rate Payer Protection Act (H.3614). This bill would protect employees of public utilities from retaliation if the employee files a report of wrongdoing with the Office of Regulatory Staff. The bill’s sponsor, Representative Russell Ott, explained this idea was born out of the VC Summer nuclear debacle, a situation that continues to stimulate conversation about energy and utility reform.
Lastly, we saw support for Electric Vehicles in a bill introduced two weeks ago by Representative Brandon Newton. The Alternative Fuel Tax Credit (H.3824) would grant an income tax credit to municipalities, state agencies, individuals, or businesses that install an EV charging station at fuel distribution or dispensing facilities (i.e., gas stations). Thanks to upstate Representatives Patrick Haddon (Greenville) and Jerry Carter (Clemson) for cosponsoring this bill!
Last week, we discussed the bold land protection goals and associated budget requests from our state agencies. Underscoring the importance of these requests, the Conservation Enhancement Act calls for a doubling of protected lands by 2050 to build a network of resilient lands and safeguard our natural resources and economy. To achieve this goal, our state agencies, land trusts, and municipalities from each corner of the state will need to pull together resources and ramp up outreach to landowners.
A subcommittee hearing last Thursday on the Heirs’ Property Commission Bill (S.436) highlighted a continuing conversation on the challenges associated with Heirs’ Property, which the US Department of Agriculture defines as land that has been passed down informally from generation to generation without clear title or documented legal ownership. The lack of clear title often prevents landowners from the fullest use of the land, including the ability to sell or protect their land with a conservation easement.
These conversations gained ground at the state level with the 2022 Heirs’ Property Study Committee Bill. I encourage you to read the Committee’s Final Report published in December 2022, which highlights opportunities to help people around the state facing these issues.
The bill, which passed out of subcommittee Thursday, would create a commission to collect data and address legal and economic issues associated with Heirs’ Property in a statewide, collaborative manner. In addition to the leadership provided by the Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation, Habitat for Humanity, and the Lowcountry Gullah Foundation, our partners at the Coastal Conservation League have been steadfast advocates for action on these issues.
The Office of Resilience and the Department of Parks, Recreation, and Tourism will present their budget requests to the Ways and Means Economic Development Subcommittee on February 7, 1.5 hours after adjournment of the House.
As the session gains momentum, 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...
State Policy Director
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