Roads, Bridges, Intersections, Lights

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While the General Assembly was unable to pass a “Roads Plan” (note: I voted for the plan that the House passed; but it didn’t make it out of the Senate), there is still alot of improvments happening around House District 71.

Below is an update from the SCDOT on the improvements going on in our community!

SC-6 @ Salem Church Road Intersection Improvement
The work on SC-6 is on-going, but utility conflicts have halted the pipe work. C.R. Jackson is actively working on other items until the utilities are relocated. C.R. Jackson plans to fine grade and pour curb and gutter this week and hopefully start back laying pipe August 24. City of Columbia plans to have a crew onsite this week to lower a 3” water main that is in conflict and SCE&G currently has a subcontractor onsite relocating a gas line. They plan to tap the line Thursday, August 20, and be out of the area by the Friday. There is also a meeting scheduled with AT&T to confirm the specific location of their lines for the installation of the remaining 2 signal pole foundations.

The expected completion date for this project is September 30, 2015. This should be attainable if no more utility conflicts are encountered and the current issues are resolved in a timely fashion.

S-40-216: Lowman Home Barn Road
The scope of this reclamation project was to grind up the existing roadway surface and base materials at least 8” in depth, add in cement, and remix while adding water. The result of this process produces a cement modified base course which is then overlaid with asphalt. This reconstruction method is very economical as compared to traditional patching and produces a structurally sound roadway which will last for many years to come.

The reclamation process has been completed and a temporary gravel riding surface has been installed. Milling and installation of traffic signal detection loops will be complete by end of week. The final asphalt surfacing is scheduled to begin at the end of this week or first of next week.

S-40-296 – A.J. Amick Road
Reclamation is also complete on this road, however, the final asphalt surface has not been placed yet. Surface will be placed once Lowman Home Barn is complete.

S-40-620: Captain Lowman Road
This road is under contract for single treatment – Contract ID 5190090. C. R. Jackson is the prime contractor. No work has been performed on this road to date. We anticipate that C. R. Jackson will full depth patch this winter and the single treatment will be placed in 2016 once seasonal restrictions have been lifted. The project has a completion date of September 30, 2016.

Richland County CTC Resurfacing
Shadowood Drive (S-1680), West Shady Grove Road (S-612) and Water Garden Court (S-1708) are part of this contract. Work has not started yet. The completion date is October 31, 2015.

Firetower Road Bridge Replacements
Local SCDOT bridge maintenance crews have completed the first bridge replacement on Firetower Road and are in the midst of replacing the second. We hope to have the project completed and the roadway reopened prior to October 1st.

Richland County Penny Project – Kennerly Road at Coogler Road
This is a Richland County Penny Project begin administered by ICA Engineering. Per my discussion with Project Manager Jennifer Bragg, the scope of the project is to install a roundabout at this intersection. It is one of six intersections included in a Design Build contract. They hope to award the contract by September with an 18-month window for completion of all intersections. For more information, you may contact Project Manager Jennifer Bragg at (803) 726-6146 or Richland County Transportation Director Rob Perry at (803) 576-1526.

I-26 Rehab
Several bridges along the I-26 corridor (89 MM to 101 MM) are scheduled to be combined in one large project in advance of the I-26 roadway rehabilitation project. These bridges will either be raised to provide for interstate clearance or replaced. The contract is tentatively set to be let late 2016. The roadway contract is expected to follow in 2017.

US-76 @ Johnson Marina Road Intersection Improvement
This is an intersection improvement project that will provide turn lanes on both US-76 and Johnson Marina Road. The initial project scoping meeting was held two weeks ago and currently the project is scheduled to be let Summer 2016.

Other notable projects in the Chapin area include
– Amicks Ferry Safety Improvement
– St. Peters Church Road Safety Improvement
– Murray Lindler Road @ Old Lexington Road Roundabout

FREE Community Cookout – August 26th

In just two weeks, I will again host another COMMUNITY COOKOUT for families in House District 71 to get to interact with several elected officials in a casual setting here on Lake Murray.

Like I’ve done every two years, we’ll be at The Rusty Anchor and Quarterdeck and have Jim LeBlanc playing tunes on his acoustic guitar.

Every year, it’s standing room only and the food goes fast! Be sure you’re one of the 300 that RSVP so you can enjoy an evening on the lake and meet those that represent our community, county and state.

Elected officials who have attended before:

Governor Nikki Haley, State Treasuer Curtis Loftis, Attorney General Alan Wilson, US Congressman Joe Wilson, State Senator John Courson, Representative Chip Huggins, Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott, Richland County Coroner Gary Watts, Irmo Mayor Hardy King, Irmo Town Council members: Walker, Younginer, Hoots, Condon; former Chapin Mayor Stan Shealy, Lexington/Richland District Five Superintendent Steve Heffner. School Board Members: Jan Hammond, Ellen Baumgardner, Beth Burn; Richland County Councilman Bill Malinowski, Lexington County Councilman Johnny Jeffcoat…and others

See below for contact information to RSVP and to help contribute by being a Sponsor, Host or Supporter.

Remember – families in House District 71 are FREE – just be sure to RSVP so we don’t run out of food!

Pictures from previous cookouts can be found by clicking here.

Cookout 2015

“Project LM”?

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I saw this article last night on The State’s Twitter feed and posted it on Facebook. Was a surprise to me and after getting calls and emails today, I’ve reached out to find out more.

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A public recreation site is planned for the Richland County side of Lake Murray after the county’s recent purchase of 4.2 acres in the Ballentine area.

The $2 million purchase was finalized June 30, according to county administrator Tony McDonald. More than a year was spent in closed-door talks and contract negotiations, with council members and county staff referring publicly to the project only by the code name “Project LM” even after council held a shell of a public hearing and approved setting aside money for the land purchase.

County leaders disclosed the purchase and the general idea for the land’s development only after The State newspaper pressed for details. Residents and lake-user groups have yet to weigh in.

It’s too early to say how the property, on Bonuck Road off Salem Church Road, could be developed, McDonald said, whether for beach, marina or other use

Read more here .

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Thank you! Huge response to “Stay connected”

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Nathan’s News readers over the years know that I try to keep you informed as much as possible.

Instead of just once a year mailers, I use this website to STAY CONNECTED year round to the community!

There was an overwhelming response in the are to my STAY CONNECTED postcard and I have personally added each of you to the distribution list of my COMMUNITY UPDATES. While I don’t have one every month, I do share frequently during the year.

August’s COMMUNITY UPDATE will go out mid August. If you aren’t receiving it, simply contact me here and let me know you want to stay connected too!

Many of you asked for Yard Signs and to be listed as supporters (some wanted bumper stickers). Next spring, I’ll be sure to personally deliver those to your doorstep before the election!

It’s an honor and privilege to represent you in Columbia! Thank you for the responsibility and thank you for your continued prayers and support!

Your thoughts on the “the flag”?

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I have heard from many of you in the past several days and wanted to be sure I had as much feedback as possible before we head towards a historic debate next week when the General Assembly returns to the State House.

In recent days I have been hearing from colleagues about possible AMENDMENTS planned for the debate. Honestly, I do not know if there will be any “straight up or down vote on removal” of the flag; but I would assume there would be. I am hearing from some about options to “replace” the flag with a different one and that’s why I’m reaching out to you for your input.

Be sure I know your thoughts…either by commenting below (be respectful, please), contacting me through the website , or emailing me at NathanBallentine@schouse.gov

If I simplified options/amendments that may come up, I would ask you:

1) Remove flag from State House grounds?
2) Remove flag…but REPLACE with another? If so, WHICH flag?

Thank you for your time and thoughtful feedback.

Veto!

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The General Assembly returns Monday, July 6th, to deliberate “Budget Vetoes” that the Governor shared today in her press conference. Governor Haley was quoted as saying “What we saw was the rebirth of earmarks.” That reminded me of my push several years go to fix the practice of earmarks . I knew we would never eliminate them; but the reform we passed does require earmarks to be listed by sponsor and county. This allows members to see what members added to the budget that was not in the previous year’s budget or requested by state agencies through the normal process. Since that reform passed, members now KNOW about the earmarks and can decide whether or not to support them or not. As I mentioned years ago on Nathan’s News, the word “earmark” doesn’t have to mean “pork”…but that’s up to the individuals interpretation.

As I’ve done for the past several years , I wanted to share those vetoes with you and ask any constituents to contact me with your thoughts. Historically, the (vast) majority of vetoes get overridden by the Legislature. Through the years, though, we have seen more and more vetoes sustained.

For a “Veto Primer”, if the veto is overridden by the House, it goes to the Senate to be deliberated.
If the veto is sustained by the House, it doesn’t go to the Senate.
Should a veto be overridden by the House, and later sustained by the Senate…the veto ultimately is sustained.

Below are 87 vetoes this year. Governor Haley’s highest number of vetoes (but 2nd smallest by dollar amount of vetoes). Click on any link to see the Veto message. If you live in the Ballentine/Chapin/Dutch Fork/Irmo area, please contact me here or email me at NathanBallentine@schouse.gov to let me know your thoughts.

If you live in other parts of the state, please contact your Representative and Senator and pass along your opinions.

FY 2015-16 General Appropriations Act
FY 2015-16 Supplemental
FY 2015-16 Capital Reserve

(NOTE: in addition to these budget vetoes next week; the House and Senate will also debate the removal of the flag from the State House grounds. More on that later…)

Voting closer to home

precinct changes

The SC General Assembly adjourned sine die Thursday at 5pm; but will reconvene for at least one more week (probably more) during the summer. As I shared with Keven Cohen that afternoon; there really wasn’t much accomplished statewide (outside of Criminal Domestic Violence measures we passed). I’ll write more about “highs” and “lows” of the session in the coming weeks.

Locally though, I can report that many of you will get to vote closer to home than last time. Earlier this year, I shared that y’all let me know of changes you’d like to see regarding where you vote.

I don’t need to rehash how bad Richland County botched that election (during the “Penny Tax” referendum); but I did want you to know I had not forgotten. Even though I was able to make many changes two years ago to help reduce wait times in our area; I heard from the community that some voters wanted to be able to vote even closer to home. That led to me filing H.4142 in February. (Note: Special thanks to constituent Will Roberts, who is program manager for the mapping department of the S.C. Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Office.)

As information: Spring Hill precinct votes at Spring Hill High School. Dutch Fork #1 precint votes at Dutch ForK High School. Dutch Fork #3 precinct votes at River Springs Church.

In the coming months, many of you will receive new voter registration cards. Be sure to notice these and see where you will vote during the next location. Hopefully you’ll save a little gas…and time!

Richland County Council has a message for voters…

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Most anyone following SC politics and/or reading Nathan’sNews, will recall the push for “On the record voting” in the SC State House by then Representative Nikki Haley, myself and few others. Can’t believe it’s been more than seven years ago!

Lately, I’ve noticed that story locally here in our own county with Richland County Council.

I sure hope Seth Rose doesn’t have to go through everything I had to go through to get this done; but I sure am proud of him for taking up the fight.

From today’s The State, Cindi Ross Scoppe share’s…

Richland County Council has a message for voters, but I can’t print it

If you live in Richland County, there’s an 82 percent chance that you have County Council member who holds you in utter contempt. Believes it’s none of your business how he or she votes. On zoning requests in your neighborhood. On how much money to allocate to the Sheriff’s Department or the schools or anyone else. On how much money to squander on an overgrown pond that the council has visions (hallucinations?) of turning into a tourist mecca. On raising your taxes. On, well, anything.

That’s the nice way of putting it. The not-so-nice way of putting it is to say that 82 percent of the council members just voted to give themselves cover to lie to you about how they vote. On, well, anything.

Nine of the 11 council members just said to the public, well, something I’m not going to repeat. But it’s a two-word phrase that ends with “you.”

Earlier this month, a council committee torpedoed Seth Rose’s request to have roll-call voting at County Council meetings, instead of simply having voice votes where no one can even make out the voices. When his modest proposal arrived at the full council meeting later that day with a “vote no” recommendation, Mr. Rose made it even more modest, asking simply to have the staff look into ways council members’ votes could be identified in more cases, and report back to the council later.

Greg Pearce joined Mr. Rose in voting for that proposal. The rest of the council members voted against even looking for quick-and-easy ways to record some of their votes. That’s Bill Malinowski,Joyce Dickerson, Damon Jeter, Paul Livingston, Torrey Rush, Jim Manning, Julie-Ann Dixon, Kelvin Washington and Norman Jackson.

Banana republicanism

You’d think the council’s votes already would be recorded, as are significant votes on the Columbia City Council, and the Lexington County Council, and the Richland school boards that the County Council funds, and in the S.C. House, and Senate.

I mean, not requiring any recorded votes is banana-republic stuff even by South Carolina standards. If you don’t know how your representative votes, you can’t hold him accountable for how he votes. If you can’t hold him accountable for how he votes, he’s not actually your representative. He’s representing himself … and whoever it is whose interests interest him.

Unrecorded voice voting also can change the outcome of votes. If you watch a council meeting, you’ll notice that 1) nearly all actions are declared to have passed “unanimously” and 2) council members often seem not to be voting at all. If everyone had to raise their hands, the votes might still be unanimous. Or they might be split. Or we might discover that some motions actually failed, instead of passing unanimously.

Opponents say, when they’re willing to say anything, that there’s no need to require recorded votes because any member can request one — as Mr. Rose did on the vote to kill routine recorded voting. Mr. Rose says it would be disruptive to have to make that request on every vote and, besides, other council members glare at you when you do that.

There are at least two far better retorts: First, if we leave it up to Mr. Rose to demand all those recorded votes, there would be no one to hold him accountable when he’d just as soon no one know how he voted. Second, with this council, there’s no guarantee that asking for a recorded vote will result in a recorded vote: Last summer, there was what sounded like a very close voice vote to defer action on a controversial zoning request involving a mansion in St. Andrews. When then-Chairman Norman Jackson declared that the council had voted to defer, Mr. Rose asked for a revote. It’s a common request to make in any sort of meeting when a voice vote sounds close. But Mr. Jackson refused Councilman Rose’s request. Twice.

Frankly, that should have been enough by itself to cause the council to institute mandatory recorded voting. And depose the chairman. Because, even by South Carolina standards, that’s lawless lawmaking.

414 seconds per meeting

Mr. Rose told me that during the committee discussion of his proposal, opponents complained that recorded voting would take too long. And you know, I had a lot of sympathy when state senators said that Gov. Nikki Haley’s demand for roll-call votes on all bills would take too long: There are 46 senators, and the Senate can vote on scores of bills in a single day. And yet, the Senate manages to take roll-call votes on every bill — and a lot of other things.

There are 11 members of the Richland County Council. I looked through the minutes for their past two regular meetings: There were a total of 18 votes at each one. Eighteen. When Mr. Rose demanded and got his recorded vote on mandatory recorded votes, it added a total of 23 seconds to the meeting. Twenty-three seconds. Eighteen votes at 23 seconds each would add a grand total of 414 seconds — that’s just under seven minutes — to a meeting.

Mr. Rose told the committee that if time was a problem, the council could buy electronic voting equipment — which made sense for the 124-member S.C. House, and is why recorded voting isn’t really an issue there, but which makes no sense for an 11-member council.

At the council meeting, he fell back to asking that staff look into options — which could include mandatory voting only on, say, “action” items, or zoning items, or spending items, or whatever. At the council meeting — the one that’s streamed live and then posted on the county’s web site for all the world to see — not a single person put up an argument against Mr. Rose’s argument, or against his fall-back proposal. Because, well, what could anyone say in opposition?

The denial denial

There was that one comment from Mr. Malinowski, who chairs the committee that torpedoed the proposal and who interjected what he called a “point of clarification” just before the vote. “The committee did not deny this,” he announced. “The committee recommended keeping the current procedures in place.”

As a Richland County resident, I would find that horribly insulting … if I hadn’t been rolling on the floor laughing at the idea that anyone could possibly be so full of himself as to believe that voters are stupid enough to fall for such an absurdly ridiculous claim.

Of course the committee, followed by nine of the 11 council members, rejected mandatory recorded voting. Rejection: That’s what you call it when someone proposes to change the way things are done, and you vote to keep doing them the way you’ve been doing them.

Of course the committee, followed by nine of the 11 council members, rejected any notion of accountability. Accountability: That’s something voters can demand of their elected officials only if they have a way to find out what their elected officials are doing.

Of course the committee, followed by nine of the 11 council members, embraced the right to … well, to lie to voters. To tell them “oh, yes, I definitely voted for that” when “that” is something the voter likes, or “oh, no, I definitely voted against that” when “that” is something the voter dislikes.

Now, maybe no one on the council has ever lied to voters. Maybe none of them ever would. But that is what “the current procedures” allow. Invite. Facilitate.

And that is what nine of the 11 members of the Richland County Council just voted to continue doing.

If you feel like someone just spit in your face, you probably live in a district that elected one of those nine.

Ms. Scoppe can be reached at cscoppe@thestate.com or at (803) 771-8571. Follow her on Twitter @CindiScoppe.

House Roads Plan comes to the floor

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Earlier this year, there were two bills filed that had several cosponsors and it appeared one of these would be the legislation used to begin the debate on roads/infrastructure.

One bill (H.3579) was the “House Ad-Hoc Committee” bill which came from months long work of a bi-partisan committee formed by House Speaker Jay Lucas. The House Transportation Infrastructure & Management Ad-Hoc Committee was chaired by Rep. Gary Simrill (R-York) and, considering the parameters given (“fix our roads”), the committee presented a thorough bill.

Another bill (H.3580) had a very important component that was outside the parameters given to the committee above: tax relief – massive tax relief that was outlined earlier this year in Governor Haley’s State of the State address. This bill was filed by Rep. Tommy Stringer (R-Greenville).

While there were several discussions between sponsors of both bills as well as the Governor’s Office and staff to reach a compromise ; a third bill (H.3878) was filed that would provide much smaller tax relief in hopes of moving forward and being added to H.3579 as filed by the House Ad-Hoc Committee.

The last week of of March, the House Ways and Means full committee voted to combine the Ad-Hoc Committee bill related to roads and Rep. White’s bill related to income tax and those bills now move to the whole House as “H.3579” Video of the committee can be viewed here.

Much has been written about the need to improve our state’s infrastructure system and every House member knows the importance of getting something passed sooner; rather than later. As I’ve shared at hundreds of meetings in my public service career, I believe you sent me to Columbia to “do something” rather than “do nothing”. Working with a total of 124 House members, 46 Senators, and 1 Governor means rarely will a bill ever be exactly like you or I would like to see it. With that in mind, I would like to hear your opinions on the House proposal. Please contact me directly through my website; email me at NathanBallentine@schouse.gov; or comment below. Through the floor debate and amendment process, this bill may experience changes; but I wanted to share information provided by the House Ways & Means Committee so that you know what the bill does:

1. Restructuring: There are two key components to restructuring in H. 3579. The first restructures the Department of Transportation and the second component restructures the State Infrastructure Bank.

A. Department of Transportation (DOT)

The Governor appoints Highway Commissioners (7 districts and 1 statewide) with a Joint Transportation Review Committee screening process approval. These commissioners serve at the pleasure of the Governor. The Highway Commission will then appoint a secretary with the advice and consent of the Senate. Commissioners hold no “terms” and may only serve a combined 12 years on the commission (retroactive).

B. State Transportation Infrastructure Bank (SIB)
The SIB Board expands from 7 to 13 members. It would consist of 7 district highway commissioners, 3 appointments from the Speaker of the House, and 3 appointments from the Senate President Pro Tempore. Of those appointments from legislative bodies, 1 of each must be an ex officio Representative and Senator. SIB members would have no terms and may only serve a combined 12 years (retroactive).

The SIB would lower its current $100 million project minimum to a $25 million project minimum and must follow project prioritization set forth by the South Carolina Department of Transportation in accordance with ACT 114. Only a Joint Resolution can override prioritization criteria requirements. However, only one project may be re-prioritized in a single Joint Resolution.

2. Transfer of Local Roads: Local governments that wish to take ownership of local roads (as identified by SCDOT) in their political subdivision may do so. In doing so, these local governments would be eligible for additional C-Funds. Should local governments opt in to take ownership of additional roads, they would receive transferred roads in three phases:

Phase 1: Local governments select 1/3 of identified roads in 2016.
Phase 2: Local governments select 1/3 of identified roads in 2018.
Phase 3: Local government select final 1/3 of identified roads in 2020.

As part of the phase-in process, the monies allocated to participating local governments would see an increased C-fund allocation of $1 million in year one followed by additional revenue increases in phase 2 and phase 3. Participants who opt in during phase 2 in 2018 would see a $500,000 annual increase in C-funds. Finally, participants who opt-in during the final phase would see a $250,000 annual increase in C-funds. C-funds would no longer come with a mandate requiring a percentage of funds be spent on state roads; this decision would rest with local decision makers.

3. Funding Components: There are two funding components.

A. Gas Tax
1. Per Gallon Tax – Currently it is 16.75 cents per gallon of motor fuel (gasoline and
diesel). This proposal would drop it to 10.75 cents per gallon of motor fuel.
2. Excise Tax – A wholesale indexed excise tax of 6% would be applied to a 6-month
average of the wholesale price of motor fuel.

B. Auto Sales Tax – Currently the auto sales tax is 5% of total vehicle costs capped at $300. This proposal would raise that cap to $500. Currently the auto sales tax is broken down with 20% going to education, 40% to the DOT, and 40% to the General fund. Under this proposal, the 20% capped at $300 for education remains, the 40% of the $300 designated to the General Fund moves to DOT and all funds over the $300 also go to DOT.

4. Control Component: This proposal includes two controls designed to prevent dramatic changes to gas prices from affecting the revenues dedicated to infrastructure.

A. Penny Control
The wholesale excise tax would not fluctuate more than one penny in a 6-month period.
B. Lifetime Control
The combined gas tax (comprised of the per gallon AND excise) cannot exceed 26.75 cents/gallon.

5. Revenue Generated:

A. Estimated New Revenue: Under this proposal revenues generated would be $428 million annually. Approximately $100 million from the auto sales tax cap increase, and shift of remaining General Funds to DOT.The remaining $328 million from the gas tax increase.
B. Gas Tax Revenue Sources
Out-of-State motorists currently comprise 1/3 of the revenues from the gas tax. Under this proposal that would equal $109 million.The Average driver (driving 11,000 miles/year in a car receiving 22 miles per gallon) would pay an additional $50 annually.The remainder is paid by “high usage vehicles” to include citizen commuters and transportation related industry.

6. Income Tax Reduction: Under this proposal an income tax reduction would be phased in over a two-year span beginning with fiscal year 2015-2016. The relief is realized by increasing the amount of exempt income in each existing tax bracket by $140 in the first phase, and another $140 the second, for a combined total of $280.

A. Cost to the General Fund
2015-2016: $1,337,967
2016-2017: $25,510,778
2017-2018: $21,910,558

B. Average Savings: The average South Carolina taxpayer with this income tax reduction would save $48 annually.

How to stop a $500,000,000 bond bill

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In a continuing sign that things are not the same in the SC House of Representatives as they once were, 22 GOP caucus members raised their hands saying they could not support borrowing $500,000,000 in this year’s state budget; no matter how worthy the projects were on the list.

Days later, there was no bond.

That doesn’t mean projects went without funding. It meant money was found in the budget to fund some of the projects or fund them at less amounts than the bond would have funded.

In the past, leadership would have rammed this bond down our throats and we’d have had maybe a 10 minute Q&A during lunch before voting for it. Not this session.

I want to thank Speaker Jay Lucas (R-Darlington) for allowing a much more open atmosphere for all members (Republican Caucus or entire House members) to have more say in what is happening in state government.

Whether it was the Governor’s bully-pulpit , more courage of members to speak out, a new Speaker, or simply listening to constituents…it worked.

As always I appreciate your feedback , especially many of you that shared your thoughts on my video on Facebook and Twitter before the bond debate began!

You can read more about this bond and it’s defeat by visiting Rep Tommy Stringer (R-Greenville) website.