South Carolina’s General Assembly advanced several important conservation measures this year that will ensure birds and communities continue to thrive in face of climate impacts and other pressures on our natural resources. Audubon South Carolina is grateful for the bipartisan leadership of our state legislators and Governor Henry McMaster, who contributed to progress on several Audubon South Carolina policy priorities, including the key highlights below:
- Passage of Solar Property Tax Exemption Bill (H.3354) marks another win for SC solar industry, consumers: As Audubon South Carolina continues to prioritize greater adoption of solar energy as a means to reduce emissions responsible for a changing climate and its impact on birds and people, we were pleased to support a bill designed to make solar more accessible and affordable in our state. This legislation, which prevents counties from increasing residential property taxes based on the installation of solar panels, passed the both the House and the Senate with overwhelming support and was signed into law by Governor Henry McMaster on May 17.
- Progress continues on South Carolina’s resilience efforts: With strong support from Audubon South Carolina, the state’s first Chief Resilience Officer was appointed by the Governor with and significant first-time funding was included in the state budget for the Office of Resilience. The agency will use the more than $50 million to implement the state resilience plan and fund the Resilience Revolving Loan Fund, which is a voluntary buy-out program designed to help people relocate from repeatedly flooded properties.
- State budget expected to include increased funding for South Carolina’s Conservation Bank: The state’s Conservation Bank—which has helped conserve hundreds of thousands of acres of South Carolina forests, farms, historic sites, hunting land, urban parks, and wetlands throughout our state and was permanently reauthorized in 2018 with Audubon South Carolina’s support—is will receive more than $33 million, which represents twice the current year’s funding level.
- Santee Cooper Reform Bill (H.3194) is expected to include important clean energy provisions: The General Assembly passed reform legislation for Santee Cooper, which will move the utility toward clean energy and increase oversight and accountability of the embattled state-owned utility. The bill included a number of significant clean energy wins, such as requirements for studying clean energy, retirement of existing coal plants, provisions that ensure an equitable transition for coal plant workers and surrounding communities, considerations for diversity in appointments to the utility’s board, and additional Public Service Commission regulatory oversight. This has been a top priority for Audubon South Carolina and the legislation was signed into law by Governor McMaster in June.
Audubon South Carolina is also looking ahead to the 2022 legislative session, during which we will continue prioritizing policies to increase land and water protections and advance clean energy solutions, including legislation that will:
- Significantly increase acreage of protected land and water in South Carolina: This session, strong bipartisan support emerged for doubling South Carolina’s protected lands and waters. Audubon South Carolina’s top priority in 2022 is working with the Governor, legislators, and key stakeholders to advance a comprehensive land protection bill and funding to accomplish this goal.
- Eliminate burdensome restrictions on home owners who wish to install solar panels: Audubon South Carolina is partnering with members of the clean energy industry, legislative champions and other conservation organizations to advance the bipartisan Solar Homeowner Association Reform Bill (H.3979), which will prohibit homeowner associations from placing excessive restrictions on the installation of solar panels.
- Provide counties with greater authority to support local land protection efforts and green space enhancements: The Public Green Space Sales Tax Authorization Bill (S.152) would give counties the ability, if approved by a county-wide referendum, to institute a one percent sales tax to benefit public land protection efforts and green space enhancements in the county. Audubon South Carolina was pleased to see the bill pass the Senate on the final day of the legislative session, and will continue to support the legislation when it is considered in the House early next year.
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