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May 9th, 2023
By Megan Chase-Muller
There are just three legislative days remaining between now and Sine Die, when the SC General Assembly adjourns for the year, on May 11th. Remember that this is the first year of a two-year session, so any bill that has not made it to the Governor’s desk this session has one more year before it is sent back through the filing and committee process. This week, we’ll be working down to the wire to ensure our legislative priorities advance as far as they can.
Missed last week’s update? Click here for highlights from the Forever Green Luncheon where we honored Representative Chandra Dillard, and a recap of UF’s testimony at the Public Service Commission and Ways & Means Committee.
DHEC Breakup Bill on the Move
After a (not so surprising) plot twist last week, it appears the Senate version of the DHEC Reform Bill (S.399) will be the vehicle to break up and reform DHEC into two new agencies. The bill emerged from Wednesday’s late-night floor debate with several amendments that make it more similar, but not a mirror image of, the House version (H.4124). The Senate bill will be taken up by the full House Ways and Means Committee today (5/9), skipping the subcommittee process.
Unlike the House version, the Senate version moves the State Water Planning process from the Department of Natural Resources, an agency that has demonstrated leadership in this important water management initiative, to the new Department of Environmental Services. The reasoning behind this move is that it would move all aspects of regulated water under one agency, a worthy idea. However, as we’ve relayed in previous legislative updates, this move presents additional challenges, including costs for DNR to re-hire experienced hydrologists to complete other water-related research that helps the agency carry out the task of protecting and maintaining our state’s natural resources. All reform comes with a few challenges, though.
Affordable Housing Tool Advances
The Workforce Housing Bill (S.284), a bill that would authorize local municipalities to use revenues from local Accommodations Taxes and Hospitalities Taxes to develop affordable workforce housing, passed out of the House Ways and Means Committee last week. Since advancing out of the Senate committee process, this bill has been subject to many amendments that expanded and then narrowed the scope of the legislation that was originally intended to help municipalities invest in affordable housing. As amended by Ways & Means, the bill no longer includes hospitality tax revenues, it limits expenditures of the accommodations tax to 15% for workforce housing and subjects the expenditures to review by the legislative Joint Bond Review Committee.
We should remember that not all 46 counties impose accommodations or hospitality taxes in SC. Based on a 2020-2021 Local Government Finance Report, 28 counties reported a local accommodations tax while just 22 counties imposed a hospitality tax. Striking hospitality tax revenues from this bill excludes six counties, including Greenwood and Union, from participation in this affordable housing funding mechanism.
Three other bills advanced out of the House Ways and Means Committee last week, and while they didn’t make the crossover threshold, it’s important for them to gain as much ground as they can in committee before the end of the session.
For the rest of this week, we’ll be working to make sure the best versions of the DHEC Reform Bill (S.399), Workforce Housing Bill (S.284), and the Working Agricultural Lands Preservation Act (H. 3951) make the finish line or advance as far as they can before Sine Die.
Until next week...
State Policy Director
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