Columbia Rotary Club – Health and Happiness

Rep. Nathan Ballentine – Columbia Rotary Club from UTPL on Vimeo.

Been a member of Rotary International since the 90s and last year transferred membership downtown to the Columbia Rotary Club.

It’s a larger club than the Spring Valley Club I started in and larger than the Lake Murray/Irmo Club; but the meetings on Monday make it easier for me to attend due to my schedule. It’s also good to still have members of our community there with me each week downtown!

I shared a “Chicago Style Politics” joke with the club during Health and Happiness and had friends tell me they thought it was a pretty good one. There’s plenty of good people in politics but in today’s environment, people can get painted with broadstrokes. I hope none of my colleagues in Columbia take offense.

If you’re interested in joining the Columbia Rotary Club, let me know. Or check out a local Rotary club in your area. Our slogan of Service above self is what I try to live through my public service belief: People, not Politics.

SC Unemployment Rate – 3.9% September 2017

HOT DOG EATING CONTEST! October 21st

That’s right…here in Chapin, Stephen Jones with Hot Dog Express is holding a contest this Saturday, October 21st at 3pm.

There’s no Gamecocks’ or Tigers’ games that day, so take the kids and see what it’s all about! At the corner of Wessinger Road and Dutch Fork Road/Chapin Road.

There will be a limit of 10 competitors, must be over 18, must register in person.

Hot Dog Express is open Tuesday thru Saturday from 11am to 3pm and you support a local businessman everytime you visit!

Please send pics for me to share and let’s see who the champion is!

Safety improvements for Johnson Marina Road

Wanted to ease some concerns from many who noticed today that “trees were cut down” on Johnson Marina Road up at the intersection of 76.

No, that is not anything to do with the proposed development trying to come our way. It’s SCDOT begining work to improve that intersection. Basically Johnson Marina is moving over to where the trees have been cut. I’ll explain below…

If you can see the map below (sorry, photo doesn’t enlarge), they are making the intersection more into a “T” so that it is more of a 90 degree turn off 76 instead of the “angle” it is now. Studies show a “T” is safer and keeps people from just thinking “they can veer left and beat oncoming traffic”. The improvement will also help with the “passing lane” that is currently on 76. When improvements are finished the “main lane” on 76 will be straight and there will be a TURN LANE left from 76 onto Johnson Marina Road. This means that those going straight on 76 won’t be the ones “going around” the cars turning left. Instead, those cars will be in a left TURN LANE.

One thing that currently is NOT int he proposal (and is something I mentioned to DOT this morning) is there is no TURN LANE proposed from Johnson Marina Road onto 76 (towards Chapin). Granted, anyone who is local and would want to “go left” usually just goes through Reformation and Lowman Home and uses the light up at Kwik Way. But, I figure, if DOT is looking to help, we need a lane put in the proposal. IN ADDITION, I have asked for them to commit to a traffic study after the intersection is finished so we can hopefully get a traffic signal there (if warranted by study). Currently, the proposal doesn’t have a traffic signal.

We’ve been fortunate out here with many safety improvements – and we have more on the way !

Please know that this improvement will take MONTHS. There is much more involved than cutting trees and paving the road. Utilities, cable, water lines all have to be moved and those schedules won’t be as quick as we’d like. Just know studies shows the improvements will help reduce accidents and are safer for our community. We all want that! Thanks for your patience during this time. Let me know anything you’d like me to pass along to DOT. Left Lane and Traffic Signal are the main ones I’ve heard so far (and I’ve already shared those with DOT).

Another zoning request coming

As most know, when it comes to development and zoning, Richland and Lexington County Council decide those matters. Not me at the State House. Our area is represented in council district 1, represented by Bill Malinowski.

That being said, I was informed by many of you about a proposal on Johnson Marina Road that would greatly impact our area (to include the already overcrowded Lake Murray Elementary School). I contacted our local Richland County Councilman last week, Bill Malinowski, and informed him of the meeting that was to be held last Friday at Lake Murray Elementary School. He is aware of my concerns; however, he needs to know your concerns as well.

Looks like the October 2nd Planning Commission meeting will NOT have this proposal on their agenda. Instead, I’ve been told it will appear on the November agenda.

It’s my understanding the developer plans to attend the October 2nd meeting of the Ballentine Dutch Fork Civic Association (6:30pm at Ballentine Park). I would obviously encourage you to attend if your schedule permits; but know I will be there as well as I try to visit with the association at their meetings as much as possible.

Please email me directly at nathanballentine@schouse.gov any feedback/concerns you have about the proposal so that I can share those with our councilman. Obviously you can email him directly; but I’m happy to print every email and deliver to him so that I will also know of your concerns in this local matter (and be sure he does as well)

12th Annual Irmo Community Prayer Breakfast

Can’t believe it’s been 12 years since my friend, Representative Huggins, and I decided Irmo needed something that would far outlast our time in office. Twelve years later the community comes together in what Chip and I refer to as “the kickoff of the Okra Strut” – held every Thursday before the Okra Strut Festival at rotating churches in the area.

This year, we have invited retiring pastor Dr. Wendell Estep from First Baptist Church in Columbia to be our speaker. Many of you may see him each week on TV, but several have not and we wanted to bring him to Irmo for this special occasion.

The event is FREE (thanks to the support of our wonderful sponsors). PLEASE RSVP before September 21st so that we can be sure your Chickfila Biscuit is waiting for you that morning! RSVP to DesireeWatson@me.com or by calling (803) 348-5416.

As always, doors open for breakfast at 7:30 am and the program begins promptly at 8:00 am.

This years’s event is the first one hosted by River Springs Church located at 1007 West Shady Grove, Irmo, SC 29063.

For quick 2 minute videos from past breakfasts, you can click here: 2008 , 2009 , 2010 , 2011 , 2012 .

This year’s host church is the 9th different host for the event! Past host churches and speakers are listed below:

2016 Union United Methodist Church – speaker Marcus Lattimore
2015 St. Paul AME Church – speaker in memory of Senator Clementa Pinckney
2014 Gateway Baptist Church – speaker Chris Joye
2013 St. Andrews Presbyterian – speaker Shelley Bryson King, Miss South Carolina 2006
2012 Riverland Hills Baptist – Jim “Soni” Sonefeld – member Hootie and the Blowfish
2011 Seven Oaks Presbyterian – Steve Arnold, operator Chick-fil-A Ballentine
2010 First Baptist of Irmo -speaker Adrian Despres, chaplain USC football team
2009 St. Mary’s Episcopal – speaker Eddie Walker, then principal of Irmo High School
2008 Gateway Baptist – speaker Jeff Davis, former Clemson football player
2007 St. Andrews Presbyterian – speaker A.V Strong, director A Better Way, Project Gang Out
2006 Riverland Hills Baptist – speaker Bob McAlister, McAlister Communications

Local Non Profits – are you a member? Together SC

Yesterday, I enjoyed speaking with board members and other professionals at Together SC .

From their wesbite:

Together SC is South Carolina’s only organization focused solely on supporting and strengthening the state’s nonprofit community through education, advocacy, communications, collaboration and leadership.

We are comprised of 700+ members representing nonprofit organizations, business partners, associations, foundations, government agencies and academic institutions. We believe the world will be a better place when all people work together for good.

When I left, they gave both me and my House colleague Beth Bernstein a note with an offer to provide a free membership for the non-profit of our choice!

So….if you work or serve with a non-profit in the Irmo/Chapin area and are not currently a member of Together SC, please reach out to me and let me see if I can help connect you to this fantastic group and resource!

VC Summer – Prudent?

Video above: Attorney, Scott Elliot, who testified Wednesday seems to agree the project was not prudent. The Office of Regulatory Staff and the Public Service Commission disagreed with this obviously.

***

This past Wednesday, the House Utility Ratepayer Protection Committee convened for the first of what is expected to be many meetings investigating the mismanagement of and decision to abandon the VC Summer Project.

As I have written earlier, there is much blame to pass around. These hearings are designed not to point blame but to instead how best to avoid another disaster like this again. And hopefully – to protect the ratepayers (and taxpayers) from continuing to pay for a big hole in the ground.

Rather than write for hours how we got here, I’ll provide links for all those who might be interested on the history of this debacle. Please see those links at the end of this post.

First, yes let me state up front that I did vote for the Base Load Review Act (BLRA) As I shared in my August Community Update, back in 2006-2007 finding new sources of reliable energy was a state priority not just for the utilities, but also the legislature as well. Staring at a potential billion dollar carbon-tax (and several other economic factors) our state was told we were on the verge of an energy crisis. We were warned of partial blackouts and waves of planned outages along the coast in the warmer months of the year. Finding new sources of clean energy was paramount. Legislators were told passing the BLRA was absolutely necessary to facilitate this new energy production in South Carolina. With almost unanimous support (only 6 officials out of 170 are on record voting “no”), the bill passed quickly.

Unfortunately, as we have now learned, the level of mismanagement and lack of oversight of the VC Summer nuclear project was off the charts. After 5 hours of State Senate committee testimony on Monday and 5 hours of State House committee testimony Wednesday, this became painfully obvious.

One thing stood out to me in particular this week. Inside the language of the BLRA, the word “prudent” (or variation of the word…imprudent, prudency, etc) appeared 33 times. Surely, someone at the PSC, or ORS, or even at the utilities would have noticed how important that word was since it appeared no less than 33 times in the bill.

Please take a minute to watch a few of the videos and read some of the articles I have included below for more detail on this.

Do you agree with Office of Regulatory Staff (ORS) and Public Service Commission (PSC) that the project was “prudent” from the start? Was it “prudent” to have so many cost overruns? Was it “prudent” to forgive the repeated delays of Westinghosue responsible for overall construction? Was it “prudent” for ORS and PSC to let those utilities continue spending money without any detailed construction schedule? Was it “prudent” for ORS and the PSC to approve 9 (yes, nine) rate hikes? Was any of this “prudent”???

No, it was not prudent. It was a gigantic failure of management and oversight all throughout this process.

The BLRA states “Where a plant is abandoned after a base load review order approving rate recovery has been issued, the capital costs and AFUDC related to the plant shall nonetheless be recoverable under this article provided that the utility shall bear the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that the decision to abandon construction of the plant was prudent. Without limiting the effect of Section 58-33-275(A), recovery of capital costs and the utility’s cost of capital associated with them may be disallowed only to the extent that the failure by the utility to anticipate or avoid the allegedly imprudent costs, or to minimize the magnitude of the costs, was imprudent considering the information available at the time that the utility could have acted to avoid or minimize the costs. The commission shall order the amortization and recovery through rates of the investment in the abandoned plant as part of an order adjusting rates under this article.”

So, tell me…if this entire mess was deemed “prudent” every step of the way; how can the costs related to the plant be recoverable because NOW the decision of the utilities to abandon construction of the plant are prudent?

Much more to come. As always, I’ll keep you informed and I appreciate the insight you give me each and every day. I will make sure we get (your) questions answered and ultimately figure out how to fix this going forward.

* Legislators told law may block SCANA from charging V.C. Summer costs to customers
* House Speaker calls for resignation of utility watchdog; Gov. Henry McMaster disagrees

* Management shake-up? SC utility chief expected to leave Friday

Text here.

What questions do you want asked? VC Summer

As I shared earlier, when news broke that Santee Cooper and SCE&G were abandoning VC Summer, I was away on family vacation. I picked up the phone (from Montana) and spoke with our House Speaker. Asked him to panel a committee that could effectively look into this and set about to make REAL REFORMS and I’m grateful that he did just that – and named me as a member of the committee.

Our Speaker recognized the reforms and results I have championed and supported in order to affect real change for our state. I will continue this with my service on the committee.

The best way I’ve been able to get results for you is by listening to you and being your voice. That’s why I’m writing again today to ask for you help. What questions do you want me to ask on your behalf (and others) from the Office of Regulatory Staff and the South Carolina Public Service Commission?

This will be just the first of many meetings to come as we work through the complicated process of determining how best to protect ratepayers, our state, and taxpayers. Many families in our community were impacted and I am looking for every solution possible to help. Thank you for being a part of the solution!

Another fantastic Community Cookout!

It’s been a privilege for more than a decade to bring our community together and give a everyone a chance to meet and speak with their elected officials in a casual setting – FREE right here in Chapin! From Governors, Lt. Governors, Treasurers and SC Senators and Representatives , to our officials in Congress – US Senators and Representatives, to Mayors and Town Council Memberss, Sheriffs, School Board, County Council Members, Coroners, and many, many more. Staying in touch helps us do better jobs for you!

Even with a forecast of showers, the weather held off and the crowd turned out. Like previous cookouts, this year was the first one for several in attendance. Many who just moved to the area or who had never been involved before. That’s what makes these events special.

One surprise was when Nan Barwick (90 years old in October) came up to me and asked “Do you remember knocking on my door 12 years ago?” Actually, I did; but I couldn’t remember her name. I replied “Yes, ma’am. Your dogs are Bertha and Putter!” She smiled and was surprised I remembered her dogs (they’ve crossed the rainbow bridge since). That was a special moment for me. Seeing her for the first time in a while and remembering the early days and those early supporters and memories who gave me a chance!

On top of getting to see many old friends and meet new ones, I was glad to see Governor McMaster present the Order of the Silver Crescent to former constituent Todd Latiff! Many might not be aware but because I was able to get Todd on the Richland Recreation Commission years ago, he was able to help bring about the changes that lead to a completely new board and helped us restore trust in that office. Todd was one who worked to help me clean up Columbia (well, Richland County in this instance).

Last Wednesday wouldn’t have been the success it was if not for our community taking time out of our busy schedules to come together. Also, thanks to the many sponsors, hosts and supporters for helping with the event and my re-election campaign.

As always, if I can ever be of service, please let me know ! I love speaking to your church groups, civic groups, and all the youth groups – Scouts, Backyard Bible Club, etc. Elected officials that stay in touch year round (not just at election time) are able to better serve our communities!