Here’s this month’s regular update to keep you informed of what’s going on in the State House and in our community!
If you have events you’d like me to share on the site, please email me at BallentineN@scstatehouse.net and be sure to put the word CONSTITUENT in the subject line so that I can reply to your email before the hundreds of others I receive daily.
Beginning March 10, the full House will debate the budget presented today by the Ways and Means Committee. For the first time since I’ve been in office we will be spending LESS than the year before. As it stands now, the House budget would spend 4.5% less than last year but would still fully fund the annual increase in per-student spending in public schools, eliminate the shortfall in the state’s tuition prepayment program and put more money into the state’s economic development efforts.
Obviously when there are cuts, someone’s not happy but I am pleased that the current proposal places an emphasis on education and the economy.
Of course, I’m really interested in looking at the “earmarks” that may have made it into this year’s proposal. Last week, I requested copies from the Ways and Means Committee and was told that all House Members would get a copy of the earmarks on their desk today (March 4) along with the budget. We got the budget; however, it turns out the earmark information won’t be available until next Tuesday (What? Are there THAT MANY and it takes that long to compile or did we not follow our House rule? I know the staff has had several illness lately but I’m not sure why the list is not available in advance instead of the first day of debate.)
I was also bothered to learn that the House Rule we passed earlier this year only applies to NEW earmarks. In other words, if something was “slid in” the budget last year and approved, that item does not need the disclosure this year that I had hoped we would see. Only NEW “projects” must have a sponsor’s name and a description.
In other news from last week, we passed a bill that would greatly improve the Education Accoutabilty Act. I posted about it earlier on my blog and there’s a good link that shows a side-by-side comparision of the Act in it’s present state and in the proposed bill that we have sent to the Senate.
Again, the list of “earmarks” was not on our desks today as I mentioned above but I learned the list will appear next Tuesday when the debate begins. I hate to be cynical (and repetitive) but if the House Rule (passed earlier this year) stated that items requested outside of agency requests must have written request with sponsor name and description, why isn’t this information already put together for us to see?
Continuing my cynicism, I’m guessing there will be a press release next week that says “House limits earmarks to X”. Sure, it’s an improvement but I just wonder how long it will take for full disclosure. Rome wasn’t built in a day and changing business-as-usual in politics is a similar process.
Speaking of full disclosure, next month every House member and Senate member (and House/Senate candidate for office this year) must file his/her April Campaign Disclosure Report on-line for the first time ever. I think this is another way we are moving towards a more open government in our state! Currently, this campaign information (contributions/expenditures) is available but anyone interested in getting it has to pay money for the hard copies of the reports and has to personally come request the copies or do so through mail. Placing this campaign financial data on-line will now provide more accessibility to our citizens.
Earlier this month I introduced a new feature on my website. It’s a “Meet Your Neighbor” post where I want to regularly introduce outstanding members of our community who are making a difference in the lives of others. If you have a spouse, friend, or colleague who you’d like others to know more about, please contact me here online and I’ll do my best to share how they are giving back to our community. Earlier this month you met Antonio Boyd and Mark Sitterly.
As always, there’s alot going on in House District 71. Whether it’s the Irmo Chamber or the Chapin Chamber, there’s always activities for you to get involved.
The Irmo Chamber Monthly Luncheon is March 12 at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church beginning at 11:45 a.m.
The Chapin Chamber’s March Breakfast Meeting is March 18th at Chapin United Methodist Church beginning at 7:30 a.m.
Time to spring forward! Don’t forget to turn your clocks ahead one hour March 9th. I’ll admit, I did not know the exact reasons we do this but I learned something new this week. Please tell me I wasn’t alone in not knowing why we do this?
The Ballentine Scholarships applications are due by March 28, 2008. If you have a high school senior who plans to attend USC, Clemson, Winthrop, Columbia College or Midlands Tec, please have him/her go to their guidance office for the application (or visit my website). These scholarships are given in memory of Karen and my family.
District Five released their 2009 budget last month. Click here for more details.
Congratulations to the Chapin Middle School Wrestling Team on winning the Individual Tournament State Championship in the Duels portion and the Individual Championship. This marks the first year a team has one both the dual and tournament state championships. What is unique with Middle Schools is that they do not divide the schools by class rankings (such as A, AA, AAA, AAAA)! They finished the season undefeated in the duesl competition and FOUR students wno the State Individual Championship for their weight class.
Thanks again for visiting the site! Please let your friends and neighbors know about it so that they can stay as informed as possible.
As you can see, I try to write often and regularly update photos from our community as well as videos.
You have given me a great honor by choosing me to represent you in the South Carolina House of Representatives and I remain as committed as ever to staying in touch. Please contact my office, 734-2969, or email me at BallentineN@scstatehouse.net anytime I can be of service to you or your family.
House of Representatives, District 71
320A Blatt Building
Columbia, SC 29221