The new South Carolina legislative session will begin in three weeks and several new bills have already been drafted to help victims of October’s record rain and floods.
One proposal being pushed by two Richland County state representatives would create a disaster relief fund. State Rep. James Smith (D-Columbia) said taxpayers could contribute to the fund through their state income tax returns. “We felt like it was a good voluntary measure for citizens who choose to give in that way in addition to the other private nonprofits initiatives that are out there,” he told South Carolina Radio Network.
Smith’s and cosponsor State Rep. Beth Bernstein’s (D-Columbia) districts were among the state’s hardest-hit.
Money donated to the South Carolina Disaster Relief Fund would go to the state Emergency Management Division. The agency would then use the contributions as grant money to individuals who have experienced damage to their homes or property through natural disaster. No individual could receive more than $10,000 in grants.
“They would be available for grants for victims of disasters, not necessarily just what took place this past year, but also in the future,” Smith said.
Smith said that this proposed piece of legislation is just one type. “I am sure a number of initiatives that are going to try and find ways to assist in the recovery for our state,” Smith said.
Several other flood-related bills could be taken up in the chamber next year. Another proposal by State Rep. Chip Huggins, R-Columbia, would allow individuals to apply for a refund on their property taxes if the assessment was before the October floods damaged their structure. It would also extend the payment deadlines.
Meanwhile State Sen. John Scott, D-Richland, has proposed a bill that would create a state fund for grants to dam owners to pay for engineering and safety studies on their dams. More than three dozen dams, mostly small neighborhood or farm ponds, failed in the storm’s aftermath. The state Department of Health and Environmental Control is seeking to increase its inspections of highest-hazard dams to every year, rather than every two years.