SPARTANBURG, S.C. (WSPA) – Some state lawmakers are wanting to restructure DHEC, claiming they’re overwhelmed with too many responsibilities.
7 News spoke with a senator from Spartanburg County in favor of the idea.
“We do have to address how we handle these other critical services in an agency that is that large, whenever their number one response needs to be public health response,” Senator Josh Kimbrell said. “I think that’s the conversation Senator Peeler is trying to push, and I support that conversation.”
District 11 Senator Josh Kimbrell said he stands behind Senate President Harvey Peeler who sponsored a bill that would change the way DHEC operates.
“While I do believe it’s an important agency, it has several important functions that are all rolled up into one large agency, and those need to be separated out in terms of importance,” Kimbrell said.
Kimbrell said splitting DHEC apart–allowing them to focus on public health duties and passing environmental duties over to other agencies–is an important step that needs to be taken.
“DHEC has grown beyond any reasonable structure. It’s almost an uncontrollable beast,” he said. “I’m not beating the folks up at DHEC. I think a lot of those people are doing a great job, trying to deal with the circumstances they’ve been handed.”
Kimbrell said this break-up has been a topic of discussion for a while, but he believes the pandemic brought it back to the forefront.
“The fault lines have been there for a long time. COVID-19 was just the earthquake that exposed those fault lines,” he said.
Because of the virus, and efforts to roll out the vaccine, Kimbrell said other important issues are being put on the backburner.
“It is such an all-consuming number one priority, other things that are also critical services are being slowed down,” he said. “When folks are trying to get permitting for new sites or they’re trying to get new buildings approved or retention ponds certified, those are all being held back, because that agency is so overwhelmed with its response to COVID.”
Kimbrell said, at this point, there’s no estimated timeline as to when the senate would vote on the bill.
He said it’s still very much a work in progress, but he believes it’s an important discussion to have and hopes the senate will take it up.
“For now, the cake is still being baked, so I wouldn’t throw the cake out to the side of the oven,” he said.
Senator Kimbrell told 7 News the bill was pre-filed before this legislative session began and, right now, it’s in the medical affairs committee. He believes there will be hearings on it this year.