South Carolina session preview: First up, dealing with a ‘mega potato farm’


This is W.T. Nottingham’s third season growing Haymans at his Pickett’s Harbor Farms in Cape Charles, Va., and for a while, he feared he might fail. (Jay Paul for The Washington Post)

South Carolina’s 170 lawmakers reconvened Wednesday, and one issue they delved right into was figuring out what to about… a potato farm.

Senators at a Wednesday forum focused in on the the water-sucking environmental impact of what The State describes as “a mega potato farm” that could siphon billions of gallons of public water. And at least one policy is in the works to curtail the use of public resources:  

Campsen, R-Charleston, plans to introduce a bill requiring Walther Farms to obtain a permit before it could take some 9 billion gallons of water annually from the Edisto’s South Fork. The state’s 2010 water withdrawal law gives exemptions to farm corporations that other businesses don’t have, which many say is unfair and potentially unsafe for South Carolina rivers. The Campsen bill would apply to any large agricultural withdrawal that would dry up a river or substantially lower it.

South Carolina’s state lawmakers also plan to deal with a few more-recognizable problems, including readjusting funding after the recession, implementing (or in this case not) Obamacare, and balancing gun rights and gun control. (All this as the state House speaker deals with allegations he violated state law through a misuse of funds.)

Obamacare: Some state lawmakers believe they’ve cracked the code to stopping the health-care law dead in its tracks, Reuters reports:

“South Carolina lawmakers say they have found a way to stop implementation of the U.S. Affordable Care Act in their state, an effort that could provide a template for other Republican-led legislatures looking to derail the federal program.

The bill bans state agencies from carrying out the law and restricts federal funds for it funneled through the state. Other states have passed similar laws, but they’re untested, a state legislative expert told Reuters.

Readjusting funding. After years of shifting spending priorities in light of depressed revenue, South Carolina will now have to focus on resetting many of the formulas that govern education, infrastructure and health-care spending, state budget director Les Boles told a media gathering. “Revenue-wise we’re just now back to where we were right prior to the Great Recession. Meanwhile, we had to change our spending priority statewide over the last six years,” he said, according to The Morning News.

As usual, the paper reports, spending will be driven largely by health, education and employee benefits. The state expects a $160 million surplus and Gov. Nikki Haley (R) releases her budget on Monday.

Garbage in, money out. The same potato farm piece above concluded with another issue the legislator is expected to take up: a bill that expands the garbage market to national waste corporations by allowing private ownership of landfills. It stands to be a contentious topic, reporter Sammy Fretwell writes. “Garbage is a particularly hot topic in South Carolina.”

Niraj Chokshi reports for GovBeat, The Post's state and local policy blog.
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