Weekly Update from the State House – January 20

For more than a year, I’ve heard from so many of you about the importance of fixing our roads and bridges and we made the initial step in that process this week. As you know, last year the House overwhelmingly passed a plan to provide sustainable funding for our roads. That plan stalled in the Senate due to a filibuster. A long-term solution must be found this year.

The most sobering reality in our state today is that people are dying on our roadways and we can prevent much of it. Our state is once again on the wrong end of a national 50-state listing. We lead the nation in traffic fatalities, a sad fact attributed in part to the dilapidated state of our road systems. South Carolina has seen an increase in traffic fatalities of 27% in just the past 3 years alone.

After much input, a new infrastructure bill (H. 3516) was put into motion this week that would take an incremental approach to an increased user fee. Motorists who drive on our roads would see a 2 cents/gallon increase each year over the next 5 years. It is important to note that 100% of the additional funding would go solely toward our vast infrastructure needs. The last time South Carolina increased the per gallon user fee was in 1987 under the leadership of Governor Carroll Campbell. It remains one of the lowest in the country. Since the last increase the cost to pave roads has multiplied without a new source of funding.

The oldest taxpayer watchdog group in South Carolina, The South Carolina Taxpayers Association (SCTA), announced its support for the House measure. SCTA President Don Weaver said, “Well naturally, our membership doesn’t like any tax increase if that were perfect, but we also realize that the roads do need an increase in funding, and so unfortunately the gas tax really is the best way to get that.”

By utilizing a user fee increase (sustained long-term funding paid by anyone buying fuel to drive on SC roads), instead of General Fund money (one-time monies, most of which is collected only from SC citizens via sales/income tax), the new bill would shift the burden from being solely on the backs of SC taxpayers to anyone who uses our roadways – 1/3 of whom are out of state individuals. It’s called a “user fee,” not to try and hide the fact that it’s an increase of revenues, but to highlight the fact it’s a tax only paid by people who buy fuel to drive on our state’s roads. Those who drive tens of thousands of miles on our roads will pay more because they use them more, and those who drive much less, would pay much less under this plan. The measure is an effort to create a fair user fee for motorists who cause wear and tear on our roads.

In a creative effort to even further shift the burden from SC citizens to out-of-state funding sources, the new legislation places a transfer fee on any out-of-state individuals seeking to register a vehicle for use on our roadways. The concept being those who use our roads should pay to do so. Currently Georgia, North Carolina and Tennessee all have similar measures.

While this proposal makes its way through the legislative process, there will be many opportunities for discussion and debate. I’m asking for your input on the matter. I will also update you as additional details become available in the coming weeks.

As always, thank you for your comments (eitherbelow or thru the website , to NathanBallentine@schouse.gov, or on my my Public Servant Facebook page .

Weekly Update from the State House – January 13


This week was the first week back in session for the General Assembly. We returned to Columbia with a long list of issues to tackle and a shorter period of time in which to accomplish the work of the people. A shorter legislative session (ends May 11th) means savings for taxpayers and forces more efficiency in government. I am thankful for the trust you have placed in me to represent your interests again in Columbia.

Most work this week was done at the committee level as bills begin the vetting process. Soon, legislation will find its way to the floor for full debate. Representative Huggins and I will keep you updated each week by sharing our thoughts on a rotating basis.

As a newly appointed Whip for the House Republican Caucus, I wanted to share our Business Plan for 2017 which focuses on job retention and growth for our citizens. Each item contained in our business plan directly affects an existing job or a future job. It’s a smaller agenda than we have had in previous years because these are all serious items that will need serious debate.

· Education Reform: Legislation is being written to correct our state’s education system which does not currently afford every child the same equally proficient education. We will fix the law so every child in South Carolina receives a 21st Century education no matter what zip code they live in. By doing so, we ensure each child is prepared for life in the workforce.

· Retirement Solvency: It’s no secret our state’s retirement system needs a major course correction, and quickly, as it must continue to meet the needs of our public employees. Our state’s greatest assets are the people who serve the public each and every day; from law enforcement to our teachers. We owe them an adequate retirement, and the promises made to public employees will be kept.

· Fixing our Roads & Bridges: Last year the House was the only legislative body to pass a comprehensive DOT restructuring/sustainable funding bill. While the Senate came up a few votes shy of passing comprehensive legislation, we have heard the demands from constituents and will re-double our efforts this year to once again pass a meaningful DOT reform/funding bill to address our crumbling infrastructure.

· Workforce Development: For a period of months, employers have been telling us there is a shortage of skilled workers to fill job openings. We will engage our k-12 education system to give parents the option for students to receive the specialized training necessary for a career in technology, manufacturing, or another field requiring analytical thinking skills.

· Real Tax Reform: House Speaker Jay Lucas appointed a special committee tasked with updating our existing tax code. The committee is currently designing a proposal that will move us further from an income based tax code while simultaneously moving toward a consumption based tax code. The result is a flatter and fairer tax code for all taxpayers.

These won’t be the only issues addressed this session. There are many more that may be of interest to you. Please let me know your thoughts on the issues above as well as other issues important to you and your family. Hearing from you helps me to better represent your family, our community and state.

I hope you’ll stay informed and visit my website (www.nathansnews.com) often this year. I will write regular posts as well as continue to send my COMMUNITY UPDATE emails each month. If you are not receiving these updates, please email me at NathanBallentine@schouse.gov and let me know to add you to the list!

Thanks again for the honor and privilege to serve as your representative in Columbia!

UPDATE: several road improvements

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Hopefully you’ve noticed improvements all around our community in the past several months! You will continue to see more in the months and years ahead!

When we return to session in January, the General Assembly will continue to address our infrastructure needs as this is vital not only to our way of life; but also the future of our state’s economy (aka jobs, jobs, jobs)

Thanks for bringing several of these needs to my attention. Thank you SCDOT for always being willing to listen and perform the studies needed to find solutions and improve safety!

By the way, there are 3 meetings next month that may be of interest to you:

October 4th (5pm-7pm) Seven Oaks Elementary – Carolina Crossroads (aka Malfunction Junction)
October 11th (5pm-7pm) Chapin High School – I 26 Widening Project ranging from est Exit 85 to Exit 101
October 13th (5pm-7pm) Chapin Middle School – same as above

** RECENTLY COMPLETED PROJECTS IN OUR AREA **

Richland County CTC Resurfacing
West Shady Grove Road (S-40-612).

S-40-940: Peace Haven Road
Completed except for permanent pavement markings.

S-40-1403: Three Dog Road
Completed except for permanent pavement markings.

S-40-620: Captain Lowman Road

** ACTIVE PROJECTS **

S-40-621: Trillie Lane
This road is under contract for full-depth reclamation and asphalt surface triple treatment. The completion date is November 30, 2016. RCE is Chris Kelly, can be contacted at 786-0706 regarding this project.

S-40-2265: Silver Point Road
This road is under contract for full-depth reclamation and asphalt surface triple treatment. The completion date is November 30, 2016. RCE is Chris Kelly, can be contacted at 786-0706 regarding this project.

** RICHLAND COUNTY PENNY PROJECT **

Kennerly Road at Coogler Road
This is a Richland County Penny Project being 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. The contract was awarded to C. R. Jackson and work started mid-August. The work on this project is expected to be completed in Spring of 2017. 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.

Widening Broad River Road
This is a Richland County Penny Project being administered by ICA Engineering. The general scope of this project is widening of Broad River Road from North Royal Tower Road to beyond I-26. The construction work is currently planned to begin in 2020. For more information, you may contact Richland County Transportation Director Rob Perry at (803) 576-1526.

I-26 Interstate Pavement Preservation
Interstate Preservation: I-26 from MP 100.8 to MP 107.7 in Richland and Lexington Counties. This project was in the July 12, 2016 Letting with a November 30, 2018 Contract Completion Date. Anticipated start is Spring 2017. Project is being managed by CEI Consultant – Infrastructure and Consulting Engineers. Point of contact is Jim Cravens, can be contacted at 822-0333 regarding this project.

I-126 Interstate Pavement Preservation
Interstate Preservation: I-126 from MP 0.00 to MP 3.68 in Richland County. This project was in the July 12, 2016 Letting with a November 30, 2018 Contract Completion Date. Anticipated start is Spring 2017. Project is being managed by CEI Consultant – Infrastructure and Consulting Engineers. Point of contact is Jim Cravens, can be contacted at 822-0333 regarding this project.

** 2016 Richland CTC Resurfacing Program **

Treatment: Resurface
Proposed Let Date: June 14, 2016
Completion Date: November 30, 2017
• Firetower Rd. – Kennerly Rd. to Western Ln.
• Scotts Hill Rd. – Hiller Rd. to Dead End.
• Owenswood Ln. – Western Ln. to Dead End.
• South Hampton Dr. – Koon Rd. to Davenport Dr.
• Davenport Dr. – Sutton Way to South Hampton Dr.
• Western Ln. – Broad River Rd. to 0.85 miles North of US 76.
Resident Construction Engineer: Chris Kelly 803 786-0706

** 2017 Federal Aid Preservation Program **
Treatment: Full Depth Patching (6211)
Proposed Let Date: September 13, 2016
Completion Date: TBD
• Chapin Rd. – Newberry Co. Line to Richland Co. Line.
Resident Construction Engineer: Joey McIntyre 803 359-4672

Treatment: PMST / Microsurfacing
Proposed Let Date: March 14, 2017
Completion Date: TBD
• Broad River Rd. – Newberry Co. Line to Broad River Rd.
Resident Construction Engineer: TBD

Treatment: Crack Seal
Proposed Let Date: March 14, 2017
Completion Date: TBD
• Dreher Shoals Rd. (SC 6) – US 76 to Lexington Co. Line.
• Dutch Fork Rd. (US 76) – Lexington Co. Line to 0.25 miles West of Gates Rd.

Resident Construction Engineer: TBD

** 2017 Federal Aid Rehab. Program **
Treatment: Resurface
Proposed Let Date: January 10, 2017
Completion Date: TBD
• N. Woodrow St. – Broad River Rd. to N. Royal Tower Rd.
Resident Construction Engineer: TBD

Treatment: Full Depth Reclamation
Proposed Let Date: TBD
Completion Date: TBD
• Ray Stoudemayer Rd. – Broad River Rd. to Newberry Co. Line
• Freshly Mill Rd. – Broad River Rd. to John Chapman Rd.

Resident Construction Engineer: TBD

** 2017 Non-Federal Aid Rehab. Program **
Treatment: Resurface
Proposed Let Date: September 13, 2016
Completion Date: TBD
• Dan Comalander Rd. – Broad River Rd. to Lexington Co. Line.
• Page Derrick Rd. – Kennerly Rd. to Shady Grove Rd.
• Eleazer Rd. – Shady Grove Rd. to Kennerly Rd.
• Point Dehaven Rd. – Richard Franklin Rd. to Local Rd.
• Rucker Rd. – Johnson Marina Rd. to Local Rd.
• Old Rd. – Richard Franklin Rd. to Old Rd.
• Creekwood Rd. – Old Rd. to Dead End.
• Circle Dr. – Richard Franklin Rd. to Richard Franklin Rd.
• Lazy Cove Ln. – Silver Point Rd. to Dead End.
• Gates Rd. – Dutch Fork Rd. to Wise Rd.

Resident Construction Engineer: Paul Miller 803 786-0717

** 2017 Non-Federal Aid Preservation Program **

Treatment: Full Depth Patching
Proposed Let Date: September 13, 2016
Completion Date: TBD
• Sid Bickley Rd. – Chapin Rd. to Dead End.
• Indian Fork Rd. – Hiller Rd. to Dead End.

Resident Construction Engineer: Joey McIntyre 803 359-4672

Treatment: Chip Seal
Proposed Let Date: June 14, 2016
Completion Date: June 30, 2017
• White Rock Rd. – Mt. Vernon Church Rd. to White Rock Rd.
• White Rock Rd. – White Rock Rd. to White Rock Rd.
• Three Dog Rd. – Old Hilton Rd. to Three Dog Conn.
• Three Dog Conn. – Old Hilton to Stone Hill Rd.
• Brody Rd. – Johnson Marina Rd. to Dead End.
• Amenity Rd. – Johnson Marina Rd. to Dead End.

Resident Construction Engineer: Robert Power 803 796-9540

Treatment: Chip Seal
Proposed Let Date: October 11, 2016
Completion Date: TBD
• Willow Cove Rd. – Old Forge Rd. to Dead End.
Resident Construction Engineer: Robert Power 803 796-9540

** FUTURE PROJECTS **

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. Traffic Engineering is currently developing plans for the project. They have indicated issues with both right of way and railroad at this location. The project was let September 2016 and has a completion date of September 30, 2017. RCE is Joey McIntyre, can be contacted at 359-4672 regarding this project.

St. Peters Church Road Safety Improvement
Tentative December 2016 Letting. This project involves moving the ditches back, widening the road ~2’ on each side, resurfacing, pavement markings, and guardrail. RCE is Joey McIntyre, can be contacted at 359-4672 regarding this project.

Bypass Lane on US 76 at Hiller Road
SCDOT Maintenance will construct a bypass lane on the railroad side of US 76. Work is expected to be completed by the end of October.

I-26 Widening
FROM EXIT 101 (US 176) HEADING WEST TO BE DETERMINED – RICHLAND, LEXINGTON, AND NEWBERRY COUNTIES.
The project includes widening of I-26 from MM 101 (US 176, Exit 101- Irmo) heading west on I-26 with the western termini to be determined. Project includes widening I-26 from 4 to 6 lanes for approximately 16 miles; overpass bridge replacements at S-58 (Koon Road), S-80 (Shady Grove Road), S-234 (Mt. Vernon Church Road), S-405 (Old Hilton Road), and S-49 (Peak Street); and jacking/rehabilitating overpass bridges at S-39 (Peak Road) and S-167 (Parr Road). Project is scheduled for 2018.

Other notable projects in the Chapin area include:
• Lexington Avenue Enhancement (Landscaping) Project for the Town of Chapin.
• Columbia Avenue Corridor Improvement Project – this proposed project is being administered by Lexington County. A consultant has proposed several alternatives for replacing the bridge over I-26, widening Columbia Avenue, and constructing new connector roads. These alternatives have been narrowed to a preferred plan that is being further developed and will be presented for public review sometime during the Fall or Winter of 2016.

11th Annual Irmo Community Prayer Breakfast

11th prayer breakfast

Seems like yesterday when Representative Huggins and I sat down to plan an event that we hoped would make an impact on the Irmo Community every year.

Next month we will gather at Union United Methodist Church for the 11th Annual Irmo Community Prayer Breakfast!

Doors open and breakfast line begins 7:30am. Program begins at 8am and ends at 9am.

This year’s speaker will be a man who needs no introduction in this area or state: Marcus Lattimore.

We all have followed Marcus’ career and seen him make a huge impact in the lives of our youths. My favorite verse is Jeremiah 29:11. It’s obvious God has a plan for Marcus – one that is much bigger than a life on the football field!

Chip and I hope you’ll join us, your friends and neighbors next month at the event we have lovingly dubbed “the kickoff to the Okra Stut” ever year.

To RSVP as an individal or to sponsor the event (and have reserved table for 8), please call or email DesireeWatson@me.com, 803-348-5416. Seating will be limited. RSVP today!

FOR INFORMATION ON PREVIOUS PRAYER BREAKFASTS (videos, locations, speakers), click here .

Purple Martins fill the sky again

BlueMartin_032

BY TIM FLACH
tflach@thestate.com

Purple martins again are flocking to Lake Murray, delighting bird-watchers and shoreline residents for another summer.

Thousands of the birds are returning to their long-time roost on Bomb Island, relieving anxiety lingering when they went elsewhere in 2014 for unknown reasons. They returned last year, but in smaller numbers.

“The birds are back, but the population is much smaller than it was,” said Sidney Gauthreaux, director of the Radar Ornithology Laboratory at Clemson University. “It’s not really as spectacular as years past.”

No one counts, but the roost has been as large as 1 million birds at times, according to unofficial estimates. It’s one of the largest roosts of purple martins in North America.

THE SPECTACLE THAT THE BIRDS CREATE HAS BECOME A SUMMER STAPLE ON THE 650-MILE LAKEFRONT.

Their numbers today are fewer, apparently due to higher mortality when the birds winter in South America and less reproduction, Gauthreaux said.

After their young leave the nest, the birds spend the summer consuming insects on trips that cover hundreds of miles before returning to their large communal roost on the island.

The roost at the lake apparently began to build sometime in the late 1980s, officials say. By 1994, researchers were estimating its numbers in the hundreds of thousands.

The spectacle has become a summer staple on the 650-mile lakefront.

Boaters sail near Bomb Island in July and August to watch the acrobatic cloud that the birds create at dawn and sunset as they depart and come back from hunting food.

It’s a phenomenon promoted by tourism officials. “Everybody is ‘Wow! I had no idea,’” said Miriam Atria, chief executive officer of the Capital City/Lake Murray Regional Tourism Board.

Tour boat operators are busy with nightly trips to view the flights despite suggestions the number of birds is down.

“Our passengers have not been disappointed,” said Ken Colton, operator of the Spirit of Lake Murray. “It is inspirational to see.”

The birds appear to roost more across the island than settling mainly on its east end facing the dam as they did before, he said.

But the cloud “is nothing like the tornado it used to be,” said Richard Peterson, chief executive officer of the Greater Lake Murray Chamber of Commerce.

Briar bushes should be added to the island to give the birds more spots to stay overnight, replacing landscape that has died out naturally, he said.

“We need to create new habitat,” Peterson said. “If we do that, the birds are going to come back in multitudes.”

No new money for Richland County Recreation Commission

Money

Just like Representative Finlay and I did by sustaining Veto 31 of an “Indoor Aquatic and Community Center” relating to Richland County and recreation, I am wanting to be sure no new funding is available or projects approved by the Recreation Commission until there is resolution from the ongoing local, state and federal investigations and lawsuits.

(Veto message)
Pool

Below is an email I sent our delegation today relating to the Park and Recreation Development Fund . The last thing that needs to happen is these tax dollars (your tax dollars) be spent without knowing more about what’s going on with the Commission.

(Email to Richland County Delegation)

2017 PARD

Related posts:

Richland County – sands through the hourglass

Delegation takes action with Recreation Commission

Meet your Richland County Recreation Commissioner

Safety measures coming to dangerous intersection

all-way-stop (1)

Thanks to continued feedback from constituents in the area, the dangerous intersection on Johnson Marina Road will soon become a four-way stop!

*Also, next week SCDOT will be mowing around this intersection to improve visibility. (Special thanks to a young student – Adelyn R. – for mentioning this hazard to her parents who passed it along to me!)

I received this email tonight after inquiring the end of last month.

***

Representative Ballentine:

Reponses to each of the items are included under each item below in red. Following is a detailed response for Item 3 regarding the intersection of Johnson Marina Road (S-218) at Richard Franklin Road/Reformation Road (S-1333). A study has been conducted to determine the need for all-way stop control at this location.

The review revealed that Richard Franklin Road/Reformation Road intersects Johnson Marina Road to form a cross type intersection. The posted speed limit along Johnson Marina Road, which is the through street, is 45 mph. However, the speed limit is reduced through the intersection by the use of “Intersection” warning signs with 35 mph speed plates. The sight distance from the stop locations is adequate for this speed limit. Richard Franklin Road and Reformation Road are controlled by the use of “Stop” signs and “Stop Ahead” warning signs on each approach to the intersection.

The most recent review of the crash history at this location shows that the crash rate has significantly increased over the last year. The cause appears to be a result of an increase in traffic volumes occurring from a substantial growth in the number of houses in this area. While the traffic volumes do not quite meet warrants for all-way stop control, they are close enough for consideration. Therefore, due to the continued growth in the area as well as an increased crash history, converting the intersection to all-way stop control is recommended to increase safety to the traveling public. Our maintenance forces will perform the work needed to convert the intersection to all-way stop control as soon as their schedule permits.

Thank you again for bringing these matters to our attention. If I can be of further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Thank you,

Robert C. Dickinson, P. E.
Acting District 1 Engineering Administrator
1400 Shop Road
Columbia, SC 29201

Richland County – sands through the hourglass

Daysofourlives

As I kid, I “grew up” watching Days of our Lives with my Mom.

This was back during the days of those rather large VHS recorders and my Mom would “set the timer” every day to record her show and watch after she had finished her day teaching at Greenville Tec (25+ years) and making dinner for our family. When I went off to college years later, I happened to catch an episode or two and it seemed the “characters were still the same”.

I share this because it seems like I’m watching the same thing here in Richland County. Again.

First the Election Fiasco and then the Recreation Mess.

While I’ve been one of the first elected officials to call for drastic measures in both instances , it takes awhile for resolution to occur. While the Elections Director was not fired – she was at least finally replaced. While the Recreation Director has not been fired – he has at least been relived of his duties – until further notice.

In both instances, it took time. More time than I – or you – believed necessary. But that’s politics and that’s what happens when you have a larger block of votes against you.

My constituents recall years ago when a Senator unceremoniously removed my appointment to the Recreation Commission. I knew then that some members of the Legislative Delegation were too much “involved” in the operations of the Commission. I was told our commissioner was removed because he “wasn’t voting correctly” (verbatim from the Senator).

I agree with an editorial I read today . Some of us have been asking questions; what have the others been doing? Helping or hindering?

Here’s a question I have for the legal minds out there: Can a commissioner be removed (like my appointment was years ago) simply by having enough votes to remove him/her? If so, then I will ask my colleagues to remove the current commissioners – much like we did the Elections Commission (except for one holdover).

If we don’t remove the Commissioners (along with the Director), it means this soap opera will continue just as Days of Our Lives has for years. Same characters and basically the same story line. One of these isn’t good for ratings; the other isn’t good for our employees, our children and our taxpayers.

UPDATE: Proposed Housing Developments

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Wanted to keep you informed of the proposed developments (The Park at Lake Murray, The Point at Lake Murray). Pictured above are the Preliminary Scores for each development. Obviously, too small to read. You can click here to review the scores.

As I read the list, it appears 22 developments received higher scores than these two. I also notice that the proposals in Irmo (Lexington County) and Chapin (Lexington County) received higher scores than these two in our area. As previously shared on NathansNews, I’ve been there is only funding for 20 of the 42 submitted projects.

Per the schedule on the SC Housing website , it is anticipated that notification of the Final Tax Credit Reservations will be made in late July to early August 2016.

While I do not get a “vote” on these matters. I have shared your concerns. If you have questions/concerns/support, you can either:

1) Email me directly at NathanBallentine@schouse.gov with the title “The Park and The Pointe” (names of the 2 almost identical proposals) and I will forward you emails to the SC State Housign Finance and Development Authority
or
2) Email Laura Nicholson directly (please cc: me at email above) at her address: Laura.Nicholson@schousing.com

As soon as I hear if these projects received tax credits (or not), I will share with you!

Delegation takes action with Recreation Commission

Letter

From The State

COLUMBIA, SC – State lawmakers from Richland County called Tuesday for the suspension of the county Recreation Commission’s executive director until law enforcement investigations into his office are complete.

James Brown III would be suspended with pay if the Richland County Recreation Commission, which has authority to hire and fire its director, follows the legislators’ recommendation.

The Recreation Commission’s board is appointed by Richland legislators. However, the legislators’ recommendation is advisory only.

Legislators voted 9-5 to recommend Brown’s suspension against the backdrop of ongoing investigations into allegations of public corruption at the Recreation Commission, and civil lawsuits accusing Brown of sexual harassment and other improper behavior. Richland County Council also has frozen the majority of the Recreation Commission’s 2016-17 funding until an audit shows how the agency spends its money.

To read more, click here.

Other articles of interest

SLED is 3rd agency asked to investigate Recreation Commission (April 2016)

Meet Your Recreation Commissioner (October 2008)