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COMMUNITY UPDATE: November 2010

Tuesday is Election Day for 123* SC House seats, our State Constitutional offices, one of our US Senate seats and all US House of Representatives seats. We’ll also vote on our local School Board, County Councilman, and statewide constitutional amendments . Regardless who you vote for, I encourage you to vote. Nothing bothers me more than hearing from people who think they can’t make a difference or that their votes don’t matter. They do. Every one of them!

*** STATE HOUSE ***

Previously, I’ve mentioned how there will probably be 20 new House members when we return in January. The following Democrats did not file for re-election: Anton Gunn, Doug Jennings and Ken Kennedy. The following Republicans did not file for re-election: Jeff Duncan (Republican nominee for Congress – 3rd District), Lanny Littlejohn, Nikki Haley (Republican nominee for Governor) , Ted Pitts, Rex Rice, Tim Scott (Republican nominee for Congress – 5th District), Don Smith, Michael Thompson and Annette Young. The following Republicans lost in their primaries or primary runoff: Harry Cato, Keith Kelly, Jim Stewart, Richard Chalk and Joey Millwood. *Recently, a special election was held for the seat vacated by the death of Bill Wylie (Greenville). Combine those with some very close races out there and we could see close to 20% of the SC House of Representatives with new faces.

Six years ago, I was one of those new faces. I did not know how many years I would be given by my voters – and still don’t. God willing, and if you continue to approve of my constituent service and my common-sense approach to reforming our state, I look forward to another term starting Tuesday. Since I’ve been elected, there has been a movement afoot to change the status-quo in South Carolina government. I imagine there have been other movements in the past but they apparently never could get over the severe hurdles and resistence that come when fighting to change an entrenched system; however, it’s these next few years that gives me hope. I give everyone the benefit of the doubt and, until proven otherwise, I look forward to seeing my colleagues work together to deliver what the people have been demanding for years. Recently the rhetoric has been turned up by those seeking re-election or those wishing to serve. I hope, and trust, this rhetoric will be followed by actions consistent with their words.

We, as elected officials, have the opportunity to lift our state to prosperity. We can (and should) attract and retain more employment opportunities for our citizens, more educational opportunities for our children and families, and begin to prepare for a long-term vision for the governing of our state. I’m glad it appears this can happen soon (even with the flames of discontent being fueled the past several weeks and months).

As you know, I’ll be casting my vote for Representative Nikki Haley to lead our state as Governor. I know she has the right vision for our state and I know that she will work with our state leaders to make this happen. I hope you’ll join me as well this Tuesday and support her.

*** YOUR MONEY ***

Earlier this month, I wrote about the Tax Realignment Commission . It’s been quiet on that front (in wake of all the elections) but look for a return to the spotlight soon. The Commission is scheduled to deliver their proposal to the General Assembly next month for our consideration. To make changes of this magnitude, there must be give and take. If we can put the political rhetoric behind us, hopefully we can make improvements to South Carolina’s tax structure – at all levels. For those wanting to know why Act 388 isn’t being included in discussions , ask your Senator. The House included it; the Senate did not.

Closer to home, Richland County voters will choose Tuesday whether to pay a Transportation Tax for the next 20+ years.

In other news, I’m hearing state revenues are actually AHEAD of BEA (Board of Economic Advisors) projections. While this sounds good (and is), our budget debate will again be very difficult as this year we’ll lose the $350m/year prop-up that was provided by the federal stimulus in the past two years’ budgets.

*** COMMUNITY ***

We have two community members who will come before the General Assembly for consideration on various boards and judicial positions. Reggie Gallant (Irmo) is up for re-election to the SC State University Board. Tara McGregor (Irmo) has made me aware of her interest in the Circuit Court At Large Seat Number 9 in our state. These elections will be held in the early months of 2011 and are voted upon by the entire SC House and Senate.

Our community has other ways to get involved as well. I hope you’ll consider serving in the capacity of a Board Member for a new museum being created in our state and contact me soon. If you know of a local college student wishing to serve as a page in the State House starting January, please be sure they contact me as well.

Irmo Chamber of Commerce News : The 15th Annual Chuck Larsen Live and Silent Auction will be held Tuesday, November 9th beginning at 5:30pm at the Raddison Hotel & Conference Center. Tickets $25 single, $40 couple (includes food and drinks). To reserve tickets, call 749-9355.

Irmo Chamber Monthly Luncheon is Wednesday, November 10th from 11:45 am to 1pm at St Andrews Presbyterian. Cost is $7. This month’s speaker is Karen Brosius of the Columbia Museum of Art.

The Chapin Chamber of Commerce’s 19th Anniversary Annual Awards & Auction On the 19th of November at 6:30 p.m. Timberlake Country Club. Heavy Hors D’oeuvres, Wine & Beer (Cash Bar also available) Silent & Live Auctions Awards for Business Person of the Year, Non-Profit of the Year, and Annie Epting Volunteer of the Year Business Attire RSVP by November 10th Reservations are $35 per person

*** OUR SCHOOLS ***

A reminder that we get to vote for our Lexington/Richland School District Five School Board of Trustees on Tuesday. For a profile of each candidate (as written by The State), click here .

Chapin Elementary’s 3rd Annual Veteran’s Day Program will be Thursday, November 11th at 10a.m. at the school’s auditorium. I’ve attended the previous two programs and it really is a patriotic service with several veterans in attendance!

All three local high schools are faring well on the gridiron this season. Every Saturday morning on Twitter and Facebook I try to update you with who won the night before and their overall record. If you haven’t seen one of these teams play yet, make time soon before the regular season ends!

** THANK YOU **

Thanks in advance for the privilege to return to Columbia and represent the Irmo/Chapin/Ballentine/Dutch Fork community! If you have events or people you’d like me to share with the community through Nathan’s News, please let me know and I’ll do my best to help!

I’m always eager to spend time with you at your Homeowners Association Meetings, Churches, and other civic events in the community! Let me know dates and times and I’ll work to be there!

During the next few months, please contact me here through Nathan’s News anytime
I can help!

Nathan Ballentine
www.nathansnews.com
House of Representatives, District 71
Richland-Lexington Counties
320B Blatt Building
Columbia, SC

Stop making sense!

Every election cycle we see a few incumbents replaced by voters and a few politicians calling it quits on their own. Some of these politicians are missed by their constituents and colleagues in Columbia…others, not so much.

Earlier this year Representative Michael Thompson (R-Anderson) decided it would be his last. Like few before him, his on-target, common-sense approach to government will be missed in Columbia.

As will his humor.

After ten years in office he’s calling it quits; but not before filing a handful of bills that, if ever voted upon, would probably pass because they contain sentiments felt by many in (and outside) of Columbia.

Earlier this year, he filed House Resolution 4468 which would call for a study of our study committees often put together by the General Assembly. Obviously, a tongue and cheek statement about a much used practice many of us inside (and outside) the Chamber agree happens too often.

This week, he followed that up with something that could save hours of our time and keep us focused on matters we were sent to focus on. What is it? House Resolution 4754….full text below.

***
A CONCURRENT RESOLUTION TO URGE THE MEMBERS OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA TO REFRAIN FROM MEMORIALIZING THE UNITED STATES CONGRESS WITH CONCURRENT RESOLUTIONS SEEKING ARGUABLY UNATTAINABLE RESULTS.

Whereas, on a frequent basis the General Assembly passes concurrent resolutions memorializing the United States Congress to take various actions desired by the General Assembly; and

Whereas, these memorializations occasionally seek arguably unattainable results, and consequently fail to constitute an appropriate use of the limited resources available to the General Assembly, a particularly troublesome practice in these times of economic hardship; and

Whereas, a proliferation of these memorializations might diminish the impact of the voice of this General Assembly when it seeks to speak to the United States Congress on issues of grave importance to the citizens of the Palmetto State, thus endangering the value of this useful legislative tool as a means for securing assistance from the federal government; and

Whereas, the members of the General Assembly express their desire that its members, when contemplating whether to memorialize the United States Congress, give pause to consider whether the memorialization prudently uses the State’s limited resources, demonstrates appropriate respect to the institution of Congress, and does not diminish the value of a memorialization to the point that future memorializations might not be received with the level of attention and serious consideration desired when the General Assembly seeks action by Congress on matters of substance and meaning to the Palmetto State. Now, therefore,

Be it resolved by the House of Representatives, the Senate concurring:

That the members of the General Assembly urge its members to refrain from memorializing the United States Congress with concurrent resolutions seeking arguably unattainable results.
***

These “memoralization” resolutions Thompson references are really nothing more than (a) statements of the obvious or (b) partisan statements to try to score points with voters or (c) both. Anyone who thinks they actually DO anything is only fooling himself. As Thompson points out, the overuse of these “memoralizations” can also lead to a “boy that cried wolf” perception in Washington when we “really” need to send them a statement. Not sure WHEN that time would be though.

Instead of these memoralizations, can’t we just pick up the phone or send a letter to our US Senators and Reps? Sometimes they pass unanimously because they’re so obvious, other times, we actually have debate over what words we want to send Washington.

Last, but not least, are his bills that would limit the time we spend on congratulatory introductions everday (a practice which has drawn criticism before) and limit the time for Roll-Call (taking attendance) to fifteen minutes.

Unfortunately, these bills and resolutions won’t make it to the House floor this year and, like hundreds of bills every session, they’ll die…much like common-sense who passed away years ago.

SC Club for Growth Endorsement

February 21, 2008
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Matt Moore
803-454-1134
matt@SCClubForGrowth.com

SC Club for Growth State Action PAC Endorses Seventeen Legislators for June Primaries

Columbia, SC – Today, the South Carolina Club for Growth State Action PAC endorsed seventeen current South Carolina legislators that are seeking election in the upcoming June 10th primary.

Each of these legislators has shown a continued commitment to limited government and responsible spending, while leading efforts to change South Carolina’s antiquated system of government. All earned a combined grade of “B” or better in the Club’s legislative scorecards and cumulatively represent approximately the top 10% of grades for the entire General Assembly.

South Carolina Club for Growth Executive Director Matt Moore released the following statement on the endorsements:

“On behalf of our membership across the state, I’m proud to announce these endorsements. We believe leadership matters. South Carolina’s future generations will benefit from these legislators leading the charge to reform our state government.

Through the support of hundreds of members around the state, we are hopeful that many more change-oriented legislators will join these reformers at the Statehouse next January. We will be carefully monitoring their re-election efforts. Should credible challengers run against any of them, we will urge our members to contribute generously to these endorsed incumbents.”

SC State Senate:

Legislator – District #, Area, Party
Kevin Bryant – 3rd District, Anderson, Republican
Danny Verdin – 9th District, Laurens, Republican
Mick Mulvaney – 16th District, Lancaster, Republican
Greg Ryberg – 24th District, Aiken, Republican
Larry Grooms – 37th District, Berkeley, Republican
Chip Campsen – 43rd District, Charleston, Republican

SC State House of Representatives:

Legislator – District #, Area, Party
Don Bowen – 8th District, Anderson, Republican
Michael Thompson – 9th District, Anderson, Republican
Jeff Duncan – 15th District, Laurens , Republican
Dwight Loftis – 19th District, Greenville, Republican
Eric Bedingfield – 28th District, Greenville, Republican
Herb Kirsh – 47th District, York, Democrat
Thad Viers – 68th District, Horry, Republican
Nathan Ballentine – 71st District, Lexington, Republican
Nikki Haley – 87th District, Lexington, Republican
Jim Merrill – 99th District, Berkeley, Republican
Chip Limehouse – 110th District, Charleston, Republican

#####

Statehouse Report – January 24

House Republicans began moving several pieces of our ambitious, seven-piece agenda through the House – after only seven days of session.

The first major achievement was reforming how the General Assembly spends your tax dollars. I know you’re getting tired of hearing about this but I wanted you to see that my colleagues have taken the first step towards EARMARK REFORM.

You and I have been talking about this for years, and I’m glad to see that others are finally talking (and acting on it) this year!

I pledged at the beginning of the year to make spending more transparent by reforming the anonymous earmarks that are a piece of nearly every government budget throughout the nation. The reform we passed allows House members to object to any budget item not specifically requested by a state agency. That item must be defended or it will require a separate two-thirds vote by the membership of the House.

For example, if someone puts an item called “Pickens County Water Facility” in the budget, that member will have to defend the project through a written description or on the House floor. My colleagues and I will get to determine the merit of the specific project. Seems obvious, right? At first glance, that title might make you (and many of my colleagues) think “I’m guessing Pickens needs a water-treatment facility and has exhausted all local financing measures possible?” While that could actually be the case, what we never knew was another possibility: could there be a water park being built for a local Representative/Senator and could this really be a way to garner votes back home? [Read more…]

Statehouse Report – January 12

The clock is ticking on the 2nd session of the 117th General Assembly as we returned to Columbia this week.

On Wednesday, the House Republican Caucus unveiled its agenda for 2008.

There are several major issues facing legislators this year that will impact the lives, jobs, and pocketbooks of all South Carolinians. We are still finalizing the text of the legislation for several of these issues, but here are the broad strokes of bills that will be debated this year in the South Carolina House.

Illegal Immigration. Congress’ inaction on this issue forces the state to take action. We have unveiled a package of reforms that will, among others, restrict illegal aliens’ access to public assistance, work to identify illegal immigrants who have committed crimes, and protect South Carolina’s legal workers. It’s my belief that this issue will be “the number two” issue behind this year’s State Budget Debate.

Stop Hidden Earmark Spending. Any item that is not specifically requested by a state agency for their budget must have a name and an explanation so the General Assembly knows what is being debated. As I’ve mentioned (since Day One of campaigning to serve you), this is a simple, common-sense approach to government. People demand and deserve more open government, particularly when it comes to how their hard-earned tax dollars are being spent. In addition to bills filed by Speaker Bobby Harrell, myself, and Representative Michael Thompson, I believe next week we’ll pass a House Rule that will immediately be used for budget debates this year. [Read more…]

H4356 – EARMARK REFORM

Today was the last day for House Members to pre-file legislation before we return in January for the last year of the 117th session of the South Carolina General Assembly.

While I have other bills I plan to introduce this year, today I wanted to file legislation that best illustrates what we you have told me we need to fix in government – a lack of transparency and questionable spending procedures.

H.4356 can help accomplish this for our state. When you elected me three years ago, you asked me to lookout for your taxdollars and also work to bring common-sense back to government. This bill does both. This bill is about people, not politics.

As you’re aware, U.S. Senator Jim Demint is actively pushing similar reform in Washington and it applies here locally as well.

I’m proud of the handful of colleagues who already cosponsored the legislation before we even begin our 2008 session. We’ve been working on this before summer and are hopeful for passage this year.

In addition to this earmark reform bill, House Speaker Bobby Harrell and I introduced a similar bill. Representative Michael Thompson (R – Anderson) has also filed similar bills as well.

(To see all House bills pre-filed today, click here)

As always, any input or advice is appreciated. For those that visit this site from around the state, I encourage you to ask your House Member to cosponsor this effort!

Note: You can also ask your Senator to cosponsor the companion bill S.896, pre-filed today by newly-elected Senator Shane Massey (R – Aiken).

General Bill
Sponsors: Reps. Ballentine, Harrell, Mulvaney, E.H. Pitts, Haley, Bedingfield, Lowe, Duncan, Crawford, Shoopman and Talley
Document Path: l:\council\bills\bbm\10238htc08.doc

Prefiled in the House on December 12, 2007
Currently residing in the House Committee on Ways and Means

Summary: Not yet available

HISTORY OF LEGISLATIVE ACTIONS

Date Body Action Description with journal page number
12/12/2007 House Prefiled
12/12/2007 House Referred to Committee on Ways and Means

A BILL

TO AMEND THE CODE OF LAWS OF SOUTH CAROLINA, 1976, BY ADDING SECTION 2-7-67 ENACTING THE “APPROPRIATIONS BILL EARMARK DISCLOSURE ACT” SO AS TO PROVIDE FOR THE DISCLOSURE OF INFORMATION SURROUNDING EARMARKS REQUESTED BY MEMBERS OF THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY FOR INCLUSION IN AN APPROPRIATIONS BILL, TO PROVIDE DEFINITIONS APPLICABLE FOR THIS DISCLOSURE, AND TO PROVIDE FOR THE ENFORCEMENT OF THESE DISCLOSURE REQUIREMENTS.

Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of South Carolina:

SECTION 1. Chapter 7, Title 2 of the 1976 Code is amended by adding:

“Section 2-7-67. (A) This section may be cited as the ‘Appropriations Bill Earmark Disclosure Act’.
(B) For purposes of this section:
(1) ‘Appropriations bill’ means the annual general appropriations bill, a supplemental appropriations bill, the joint resolution appropriating revenues of the capital reserve fund, a bill appropriating contingency reserve fund revenues, or any other bill appropriating state revenues while these bills are under consideration by the House Ways and Means Committee or Senate Finance Committee, or any subcommittee thereof, and any free conference committee on an appropriations bill. For purposes of this definition, a bill includes a joint resolution.
(2) ‘Earmark’ means:
(a) an appropriation for a specific program or project requested by a member of the General Assembly not originating in a written agency budget request;
(b) language in an appropriations bill requested by a member of the General Assembly directing or steering the expenditure of funds appropriated to an agency for a purpose or to a county or municipality not included in the agency’s budget request.
(C)(1) A member of the General Assembly requesting an earmark in an appropriations bill shall make the request in writing on a form designed jointly by the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee. Minimally, the form must include the member’s name, the specifics of the earmark request, including the county or municipality to which the earmark is steered if not statewide, the purpose to be accomplished by the earmark request, and such other information as the form may require. The form must be filed with the clerk of the House Ways and Means Committee or Senate Finance Committee, as appropriate. All earmark requests must be date/time stamped at the time of filing. The committee shall maintain for public inspection during normal business hours a register containing a copy of each earmark request filed in order of filing and a copy of the earmark request must be published on the General Assembly’s website within three business days of filing. In the case of an earmark request while an appropriations bill is under consideration by a committee of free conference, the form must be filed with the designee of the chairman of the committee of free conference and this filing applies, mutatis mutandis, in the manner of filing with a committee clerk for purposes of consideration of the earmark request in a committee of free conference. An earmark may not be considered in the House Ways and Means Committee or Senate Finance Committee or any subcommittee thereof or in a free conference committee for inclusion in an appropriations bill before the filing of the earmark request form required pursuant to this subsection.
(2) The chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee, the chairman of a subcommittee of those committees, and the chairman of a committee of free conference, while these committees are considering an appropriations bill, shall enforce the requirements of this section.”

SECTION 2. This act takes effect upon approval by the Governor and applies for appropriations made for fiscal years beginning after June 30, 2008.

—-XX—-

Light at the end of the tunnel (TRAC)?

 

If you read Nathan’s News, odds are you are someone who already knows what the Tax Realignment Commission is and what they’ve been charged to do. What you may not know is what exactly they’ve been up to over the past several months.

For those that want to feel like you’re a part of the Commission, this site has everything you want.

I’m guessing you’ve already heard some of the proposals being debated: a grocery tax increase (or rather re-instatement)? A gas tax increase? Increase of cap on automobile sales tax?

Did last year’s cigarette tax increase soften the hardcore “no new taxes” stance that SC is known for? Something has to be done though….cut services, raise taxes or…..raise fees?

Ah, yes…fees. Could that be the “out” for both Republicans and Democrats who can sell “fees” better than “taxes” back home?

The TRAC report is due next month – after elections, of course – and once received by the General Assembly, I’m wondering if it will even see the light of day. Remember, we’ve been known to form our share of study committees only to never act upon those recommendations.

I’ve purposely stayed out of any discussions so that the committee – who should not have any political pressure – can recommend what they think is best for our state. Of course, politics will be injected soon enough. Maybe it already has?

If revenues are down and services are already “cut to the bone” – and with no more stimulus money to plug holes – what do you think we should do?

The Weekly Rewind


January 26 – January 28

We’re seeing more floor debate in Week Three but really very little “major legislation” has passed at this point.

Wednesday is when the first real attempt at reforming our constitutional offices had a chance. But by ONE vote, the bill that would allow SC voters to decide to continue to elect the Secretary of State or have the position appointed by the Governor, failed. I was glad to see most of the Spartanburg delegation put the state’s interests above local self-interests when some voted to support the measure. You see, the current Secretary of State is from Spartanburg and you can see the politics of “protecting your own” that could override other criteria. Even with some of their votes, we fell one vote short . We will try again later this year (another bill or an amendment to a germane bill later). If we cannot pass this reform bill for this position, I don’t see how we will pass similar legislation for Superintendent of Education, Adjutant General or Comptroller General .

Thursday saw our first Cloture Motion this year surrounding S.424 (10th amendment). A cloture motion limits debate. This means there can be no more amendments placed on the desk after the motion is made and debate is limited to only 3 minutes FOR and 3 minutes AGAINST each amendment. Then when the amendments are finished there is only 1 hour of debate FOR and 1 hour of debate AGAINST the final bill. After the amendments today though, we adjourned debate until next week. Why? Well, Thursdays are usually very brief to allow for members to travel home to their “paying jobs” and family.

Earlier today something happened that normally would go unnoticed to most; but it sets up something that may lead to un-precedented action next week on local legislation dealing with the Fairfield County School Board . Long story short, two LOCAL bills (H.4431 and 4432) were “24 hour ruled” (meaning a member postponed debate for 24 hours after the bill was printed on the calendar). Why is that interesting? Well, customary practice in the House and Senate is for members to stay out of local issues with other members’ constituents/counties. One Senator and one House member filed legislation dealing with a local school board issue and usually they would be the only ones to vote . While some would say those members should not interfere with school board matters and instead focus on state issues, it will be more interesting to see if members (outside Fairfield County) actually vote on the LOCAL bill or let these members pass what they feel is best for their constituents. Stay tuned…

Today, I also filed another piece of legislation that I feel can help improve education in our state. We’ve heard alot in the past about tax credits for private school or school-choice for private and public school. Why not a tax credit for parents to assist in the tutoring of their children? H.4449 would allow families (of 4 making <$60,000) to claim a refundable tax credit up to $2,000 for the tutoring of their student. Most tutors are public school teachers and most in the state support public education. I think this would be a good start and could even help assist in the discussion of greater choice issues in our state. While we often wear our partisan jerseys in Columbia, I do want to share how we managed to work together for some good this week. The House members/staff pitched in over $1,000 for Zach Pippin (page) for his trip to Haiti next month. Please keep Zach in your thoughts and prayers and wish him a safe return.

This week I again spent time with several constituents in my office and State House lobby – including my cousin, Allyson Clarke. Allyson’s mom, Jane, and my mom are sisters. You may recall that my aunt Jane died in a car accident a few years ago and I have named one of the Ballentine Scholarships in her memory. Allyson came with other students in the Nurse Anesthetists program at USC. Constituent Wanda Walker (a CRNA for years) led the group to my office in 320B Blatt Building. I introduced Michael Hunter (who is running for Citadel Board of Visitors) to several colleagues Tuesday…spoke briefly with state employees Robbie DeFreese, Sharon Ford, Rosalind Funk and had breakfast with John Seydlitz from Victory Bible Christian School . I also was VERY impressed meeting Dutch Fork High School freshman, Alex Brunson, who shared his concerns about cell phone use while driving. Thank you to Padgett Lewis and Ben Thompson for stopping by the office with issues important to them and also to Irmo High School junior, Ben Thomas, for choosing to shadow me one morning. Of course, I always enjoy seeing Bureau of Protective Service officers Andy Schmidt and Jennifer Aycock almost every day walking to the House Chamber.

As you can see, representing Richland and Lexington Counties allows me to see several constituents every week in Columbia. I appreciate y’all taking time out of your busy days to come visit and share your advice and concerns for state and local issues.