At the beginning of April, there was successful advancement of two bills that were a priority for Conservation enthusiasts.
The Conservation Enhancement Act (H.3786) is a bill for Conservation of lands via requiring a portion of the deed recording fee to be credited to the SC Conservation Bank Trust Fund. This helps tie development to conservation. The bill passed the House and is “in Committee” which means it now requires a hearing in the Senate Finance Committee, which should be scheduled soon.
The SC Conservation Bank is a land legacy initiative that works to protect and sustain land in South Carolina that is deemed significant. It works to fund the preservation of, and public access to, wildlife habitats, natural areas, historical sites, sites of unique ecological significance, forestlands, farmlands, watersheds, open space, and urban parks as an essential element in the orderly development of the State. It’s an ongoing funding source to acquire these real estate interests from willing sellers.
An example of such conservation locally is Greenbrier Farms in Easley. The 300 acre working farm granted an almost 124 acre conservation easement to limit future development on that land. A conservation easement is an agreement between a landowner and land trust that restricts the economic and development potential of the land, which reduces the fair market value for both current and future owners.
If you are interested in helping this along, you could reach out the legislators on this committee to encourage them to set a hearing for the bill. After it passes out of committee, it will head to the Senate floor for a vote. If conservation is important to you, please reach out to your Senator, you can find your Senators here. Most likely, it’s Rex Rice.
Another bill that got passed in the House in early April without amendment was the DHEC Restructuring Bill (H4124). This bill would dissolve the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC).
As it stands, DHEC has a large swath responsibilities from pandemic response to regulating dams and food safety. Some have deemed it unwieldy and ineffective. The legislation replaced DHEC with a newly created Department of Public Health to assume health related functions, and the Department of Environmental Services would be focused on environmental issues.
In it’s present condition, it allows the State Water Planning process to remain at the Department of Natural Resources, and maintains the 2018 compromise involving the automatic stay of DHEC permit decisions and directs the Department of Administration to determine the most effective means of restructuring.
Here is weekly legislative update produced by the House Office of Research that covers action on the floor of the House and full House committees. Other noteworthy actions concern adoptions, Infant Safe Haven laws, and Narcotic Treatment Programs.