SAVE THE DATE: Community Cookout – August 9th!

It’s that time again where I bring all our local elected officials together for an opportunity for you to meet and mingle in a casual setting! No stuffy suits or ties. Shorts and flip-flops are perfect!

For more than a decade, I’ve had a regular COMMUNITY COOKOUT and get great feedback from the community! Many attendees are “first time guests” who have moved to the area or never been involved in politics before.

We ran out of food the first time back in 2004 (I didn’t expect such a large turnout); but ever since there’s always been food, drink, music and good times for everyone! Last year we had to limit it to the first 300 RSVPs – so don’t wait too long to let us know you and your family will be there!

As usual, we’ll get together at The Rusty Anchor and Catfish Johnny’s out here off Johnson Marina Road. Jim LeBlanc has already confirmed he’ll entertain us again.

More details and RSVP information in the weeks ahead! I look forward to seeing you and your family out there again!

If you’d like to help sponsor this year’s cookout, please contact me here . I’ll go ahead and also take RSVPs if you’d like to get them to me already!

SC lawmakers working overtime to cover House vacancies

Vacancies leave 200,000 unrepresented in SC House

BY AVERY G. WILKS
awilks@thestate.com

About 40,000 Lexington County residents lost their voice in the S.C. House last week when state Rep. Rick Quinn was indicted on public corruption charges and suspended from office.

But District 69’s voters – including about 4,000 who also lost their state senator to the State House corruption probe earlier this spring – soon learned they were being adopted.

“I promise to work with other Lexington County representatives to make sure you’re not forgotten and that help is just around the corner,” state Rep. Nathan Ballentine, R-Lexington, told the district’s registered voters in a robocall last week.

Call it a sign of the times.

As legislators return to Columbia to pass a budget deal — assuming one can be made — some S.C. lawmakers will be working overtime to cover the more than 200,000 residents who have lost their representatives in the S.C. House this year.

State Reps. Jim Merrill, R-Berkeley, and Quinn were suspended after being indicted in special prosecutor David Pascoe’s State House corruption probe. Both has denied any wrongdoing.

Former state Rep. Chris Corley, R-Aiken, resigned in January after his indictment on criminal domestic violence charges.

Former state Rep. Ralph Norman, R-York, resigned his seat in February to focus on his successful GOP primary run in a race for Congress. And state Rep. Joe Neal, D-Richland, died unexpectedly just days later.

Meanwhile, the Senate has lost one of its members to Pascoe’s probe, state Sen. John Courson, R-Richland.

That has left some residents with no lifeline when their roads need fixing, when government red tape needs clearing or when a personal issue comes before the Legislature.

Lexington state Reps. Ballentine, Chip Huggins and Todd Atwater publicly have offered residents of Quinn’s district their help. Ballentine also is considering mailing postcards to District 69 residents who may not check their voicemail or social media.

Read more at The State

You can make a difference!

One of the great things about being a public servant is being able to help others.

In order to be the best elected officials we can be, we need to constantly stay in contact with our constituents and we need to encourage them to reach out to us and be our eyes and ears around town.

NathansNews readers are always willing to share their advice about legislation and also letting me know where our community needs help!

Whether it’s traffic/safety improvements , housing development issues , potholes , new neighbors in the community ,helping elderly lady keep electricty on, saving an abandoned, malnoursished dog, or all sorts of other issues, it’s YOU that help make a difference by bringing to my attention.

In the past few weeks, residents of Wescott Ridge have come to me about their concerns. And those concerns are now being looked into.

Thanks to Wescott Ridge residents Chris Dornburg and Mark Hendrick bringing to my attention the neighborhood’s concerns, I’ve contacted SCDOT about possible sound barriers as well as safety improvements:

“Representative Ballentine – Thank you for forwarding Mr. Dornburg’s concerns regarding the traffic and speed along Broad River Road near Wescott Ridge subdivision just off the Peak Exit. I have assigned this study to our District One Traffic Engineering staff to complete. Typically, these studies take 45 to 60 days to complete. We will respond with our results once complete.

Additionally, the original encroachment permit for the subdivision stated that an updated traffic impact study would be performed once they had full build-out of the subdivision to determine if a traffic signal would be warranted. If the study shows the signal would meet engineering warrants, this signal installation would be at the developers cost. Our District Permit staff will be following up on this as well.

Please feel free to contact me should you need additional information regarding this request.”

Also “the noise study will be starting next month. If the noise study comes back at a certain level, we are required to put up sound barriers according to federal law”

If you or your HOA needs assistance anytime, please continue to let me know. I’m happy to point you in the right direction, make some calls, and get results for you! Since I was elected back in 2005, I continue to send regular COMMUNITY UPDATES, mailings, and calls about issues important to us here in Irmo/Chapin and at the State House. If you aren’t receiving those updates, please let me know so I can add you to the distribution list so you can stay in touch – and help me stay informed too!

As a friend once told me, “Elected Officials that stay in touch year round are better able to do their job than those politicians that are just around during election time.”

Roads Update from improved DOT website

Excuse the poor quality screen shot; but pictured above are road improvements coming our way in the near future! The photo does not include what many of us would consider MAJOR improvements (which can be seen here)

I’m on my way to another SCDOT meeting for (and in) our community but wanted to get this information out to you as an another way to keep you informed!

For previous information on road improvement in our area, click here.

Update from State House – May 11

Roads Bill becomes law – just in time

Sine Die (Latin meaning “without a fixed day”) Adjournment occurred this past Thursday, May 11, 2017, at 5:00 pm and marked the end of this year’s general legislative session. For a bill to have become law this year, it would have needed to pass both legislative chambers by Sine Die. This always adds increased pressure in the final week of legislative session.

While my House colleagues and I passed many significant pieces of legislation this week, the most anticipated action was the passage of a bill to fix our roads and bridges. The House and Senate hammered out an agreement that had enough support to pass both legislative bodies. In its final form, the roads bill:

* Reforms the Department of Transportation

* Provides real accountability and transparency at the department of Transportation (public records, mandated meetings, ethical requirements for commissioners)

* Gives Governor complete control of the Commission with a clear line of authority and at-will removal

* Provides Sustainable Long-Term Funding

* Creates a long-term and sustainable funding stream by increasing the motor fuel user fee by 2 cents/gallon over the next 6 years, not exceeding 12 cents/gallon

* Safeguards taxpayers from future automatic tax increases by not indexing for inflation

* Protects SC taxpayers from continuing to solely foot the bill for infrastructure repair by not using General Fund dollars and captures 30% of the motor fuel user fee revenue from out-of-state motorists

* Creates an Infrastructure Maintenance Trust Fund to ensure all new revenue collected from the motor fuel user fee is used only for existing infrastructure needs

* Does not increase or change fees for South Carolina driver’s license applications or renewals

* Delivers Responsible Offsetting Tax Relief

* Includes responsible tax relief to offset the user fee increase for South Carolina motorists
Offers a refundable income tax credit equal to the motor fuel user fee increase that must be reauthorized prior to 2023

* Enhances already existing College Tuition Tax Credit for every South Carolina tuition-payer to enhance workforce development

For years, I have heard from many of you about the need to fix our roads. While the Senate FINALLY passed something this year (after the House had sent them something for the past 3 years that was killed by filibuster), Governor McMaster vetoed the bill. The very next day, the House and Senate overwhelmingly overrode that veto when 127 Representative and Senators from all across our state, chose people over politics, and supported the compromise legislation. For the record, only 30 officials voted against the bill. Many inside and outside the chamber feel those votes may have been more political than anything else.

The House will come back in a few weeks for a specialized session to vote on the remaining conference reports, including a final budget once the House and Senate have reached a final agreement. After that, we should be back to our full-time jobs and families until December or January 2018. I hope to see you around town and will certainly keep you posted on community and other events during the summer and fall. If you do not receive my regular COMMUNITY UDPATE emails, please email me at the address below and ask to be added to the distribution list.

Thank you again for the honor of serving you and your family in the General Assembly. If you ever find yourself in need of assistance navigating state government, or if you have ideas on issues you want me to share with my colleagues in the House, please don’t hesitate to contact me at www.nathansnews.com, calling my State House Office at 734-2969, or emailing me at NathanBallentine@schouse.gov.

Meet Kristina and Joe Cash: BabyBum entrepreneur

Thanks to Nathan’sNews readers for sharing news about members of our community with a fantastic entrepreneurial story! Over the years, I’ve posted several MEET YOUR NEIGHBOR pieces in order to share good news and great people with our readers. Today, I’ve cut/pasted an article that was already out there about Kirstina Cash and BabyBumProducts. Read on…

From web.com

There are some “rules” of business success most entrepreneurs abide by. But many also have their own “secrets”—things they do or believe that helped them achieve success. In “Secrets of Success,” a weekly interview series here at Web.com’s Small Business Forum, I ask some of today’s smartest, most innovative, most successful business owners to share their insights and success secrets with you.

Meet: Kristina Cash, the Director of Operations and founder of BabyBum™ Products . In 2013, after giving birth to her son, Kristina felt 100 percent confident in her parenting skills. That confidence soon faded when her baby developed a gastrointestinal disorder causing chronic diaper rash. Despite constantly applying diaper cream at the recommendation of her pediatrician, the rash only got worse. After eight weeks of her son suffering from a red, blistered bottom, Kristina was consumed with the task of healing the painful rash. Then she read that the proper way to apply diaper cream included washing your hands before applying the cream. She always washed her hands after applying diaper cream, but rarely immediately before.

That was Cash’s ah-ha moment. She knew there had to be a better, more sanitary way for parents to apply diaper cream that didn’t require them running to the bathroom to wash their hands in the middle of changing diapers. With nothing else on the market addressing this dilemma, she spent the remainder of her maternity leave creating a prototype of her new invention out of a kitchen spatula and suction cup.

From that homemade prototype, the BabyBum Brush was born. It’s the first-ever, patent-pending diaper cream applicator tool that reduces the risk of bacteria transfer and applies ointment smoother, thicker and faster for better protection against painful diaper rashes. The BabyBum Brush is gentle on baby’s skin, wipes clean and keeps parents’ hands and nails free of diaper cream mess.

Like most entrepreneurs, Cash met her fair share of challenges along the way to get her product into the hands of consumers. Her tenacious drive and belief in the BabyBum Brush allowed her to overcome initial problems such as product quality issues and faulty packaging.

The BabyBum Brush is now sold in more than 2,500 stores nationwide, including BuyBuy Baby and Babies “R” Us, as well as on Amazon. Kristina has expanded her product line this year, adding BabyBum Diaper Changing Glove-Saks.

For more information and Q&A with Kristina, visit Secrets of Success: Kristina Cash

The Roads Bill – Conference Report

For more than 3 years, the SC House of Repesentatives has been working towards a solution to fix South Carolina Roads. With limited success, and road bumps in the Senate, it appears that THIS year could be the year our state’s infrastructure needs are finally addressed in a responsible manner.

After a rare feat in the Senate this year, Senators voted to kill a filibuster and passed their version of a bill to help the state. Last week, House and Senate conferees worked to combine the two versions (House/Senate) into a compromise bill that will hopefully pass both chambers – and more importantly – be able to garner enough votes to overturn an inevitable veto by Governor McMaster.

Here are the “main points” of the conference report. If you have questions, please post below or contact me here or by email me at NathanBallentine@schouse.gov.

HOUSE/SENATE CONFERENCE REPORT ON ROADS BILL

Governance and Reform

● Provides real accountability and transparency at the Department of Transportation (public records, mandated meetings, ethical requirements for commissioners)

● Gives Governor complete control of the Commission with a clear line of authority and at-will removal

● Requires General Assembly to approve all 9 Highway Commission appointees

● Highway Commission organized to reflect regional representation with 7 Congressional districts and 2 statewide at-large members appointed by the Governor (adds 1 member to current structure)

● Strengthens DOT’s control over project authorization and financial decisions by the State Transportation Infrastructure Bank

Funding

● Creates a long-term and sustainable funding stream by increasing the motor fuel user fee by 2 cents/gallon over the next 6 years, not exceeding 12 cents/gallon

● Safeguards taxpayers from future automatic tax increases by not indexing for inflation

● Protects SC taxpayers from continuing to solely foot the bill for infrastructure repair by not using General Fund dollars and captures 30% of the motor fuel user fee revenue from out-of-state motorists

● Creates an Infrastructure Maintenance Trust Fund to ensure all new revenue collected from the motor fuel user fee is used only for existing infrastructure needs

● Does not increase or change fees for South Carolina driver’s license applications or renewals

● Increases funding for County Transportation Committees targeted to repair rural and secondary roads

● Captures revenue from alternative energy motorists by creating a biennial registration fee for all hybrid and electric vehicles

● Established a road use fee to capture revenue from out of state truckers

● Raises the cap on motor vehicle sales tax to $500 and creates a $250 out of state maintenance fee

● Incentivizes road construction industry to return to SC with responsible infrastructure investment

● Provides $640 million in new annual revenue for infrastructure maintenance needs when fully implemented

Tax Relief

● Includes responsible tax relief to offset the user fee increase for South Carolina motorists

● Offers a refundable income tax credit equal to the motor fuel user fee increase that must be reauthorized prior to 2023

● Enhances already existing College Tuition Tax Credit for every South Carolina tuition-payer to enhance workforce development

● Contains a non-refundable Low Income Tax Credit for working families (not federal model)

● Increases the maximum income tax credit from $210 to $350 for dual income household joint filers

● Reduces SC manufacturers property tax burden by $35 million using a phased-in approach over 6 years

Update from the State House – April 27

Legislative session winding down

It’s hard to believe the first year of our two-year legislative session is nearing a final close. It is during these final 6 days of the regular legislative session where consensus is built and bills make their way to the desk of the Governor. For the second week in a row, the clock ticked while the Senate engaged in a contentious debate of the House Roads Bill. In a break of good news, the Governor also signed 5 new pieces of legislation, chief among them a bill to bring solvency to the public employee retirement system.

The Roads Bill

Addressing the condition of our state’s roads and bridges is the top priority of nearly every legislator in the House and Senate. After two weeks of public debate on the matter, I was pleased to see the Senate give the House roads bill a final vote. At approximately 10:30 pm Wednesday night, and after nearly 75 proposed amendments, one final amendment was added to the roads bill by Senators and a successful vote for passage was taken.

To be sure, the Senate version is not ideal or perfect – far from it. Many in the Senate would even agree with this conclusion. Among other things, the Senate version of the roads bill doubles driver’s license fees, includes a wealth redistribution element more commonly known as the “Earned Income Tax Credit,” provides tax credits for college students, and almost completely removes the DOT governance model contained in the House version. In keeping with the legislative process, the bill now heads back to the House where we will begin debate on the merits of these Senate changes and work out the policy differences between the two plans.

Public Employee Retirement System

As I have stated before, both the House and Senate reached a legislative agreement on the first phase of the long-term approach to securing the public employee retirement system. This monumental undertaking was a problem created over a number of years, and will take just as many if not more to be fully resolved. The first step, one that stops unfunded liabilities from increasing, was signed by Governor McMaster this week. The House and Senate will continue work through the summer and winter months to craft the next phase of legislation ensuring the retirement system remains fiscally sound and secure.

Ryan’s Law expanded

Ten years ago, I was the primary sponsor of a bill to help autistic children and their families receive the insurance coverage they needed. That initial coverage made SC only the 2nd state in the country to realize the importance and need for families to not have to shoulder the financial burden alone to help their children. Last month here in the Irmo News, I wrote about the recent push to finish what we started back then – in 2007. I’m pleased to share that this past week, the House overwhelmingly agreed we needed to catch up with the rest of the country and assure all autistic children and families are covered. Now that the House finally agreed that insurance companies should expand coverage to employees at small businesses and also those with individual planes, SC will catch up with more than 30 other states who were able to pass the entire reform before we did. The good news is the Senate has passed similar language with a vote of 42-3 in the past so while they may not take up our House bill until January 2018, I feel very good it will become law once they do take a final vote.

Even though session is almost over and school almost out, I will continue to keep you updated on state and community issues through my website and also here at the Irmo News. It is an honor to serve you and your family in the General Assembly. If you ever find yourself in need of assistance navigating state government, or if you have ideas on issues you want me to share with my colleagues in the House, please don’t hesitate to contact me at www.nathansnews.com or call me at 734-2969.

UPDATE – Proposed 60 housing development again

Seems like this is the 4th or 5th time an out-of-state developer has tried to use tax-credits to build a development near Ballentine Elementary that will cause even further infrastructure and crowding issues in our community.

Every time, y’all have reach out to me and let me know your concerns and I agree step in to help. This time there are 35 projects applying . While I do not get a vote on these matters. I do get to share my response and ask that you share yours as well.

To have your voice heard, you can do one of two things:

1) Email me directly at NathanBallentine@schouse.gov with the title “The Park” and I will forward you emails to the SC State Housing Finance and Development Authority

or

2) Email Laura Nicholson directly (please cc: me at email above) at her address: Laura.Nicholson@schousing.com

How many new laws since January?

Five and half years ago, the “State House Website” had some major changes (improvements) that helped enable everyone who visited the site to stay and be more informed. (Coincidentally the change came months after Governor Haley signed into law the bill she and I had pushed for years: On the Record Voting/Roll Call Voting ) Yes, I remember hearing from colleagues “why record our votes? People will use that against us”. Of course, I thought that was not reason enough to stop the push for transparency. In fact, that’s even more reason we needed to push for transparency: to record our votes. We also were told “recording votes costs too much money” and to this day, I still hear “this is such a waste of time” (especially with the budget where almost every vote on the first day or two is unanimous or overhelmingly lopsided 100-10 or something like that).

I was amazed at how user-friendly the new site was and I continue to be impressed with ongoing changes made to provide more information (usually). In fact, in 2015 our Legislative Services Agency was recognized nationally with an achievement award for (among others things) the innovations on our website. (Page 16 in pdf)

Earlier this year, someone pointed out a change that didn’t show our attendance votes in one easy-to-read page like they used to. I thought that was weird but was told that in last year’s campaigns, opponents were using website info (incorrectly)saying members weren’t there, when the reality was (and is) many members make it to the chamber after the recorded roll-call is taken. So while the website was showing not-present, most the time that meant not-present “right after prayer and pledge” when the roll-call was closed. After hearing that, I see now why many members back in the day were fighting all this transparency. Made me think back to last summer, when my opponent tried to make an issue out of me not voting 100% of the time because he was retired and could make the monthly meetings he had for County Council and supposedly “never missed a vote”. I don’t know any member who has ever done that in the House or Senate. Many reasons why. First, we meet 3 days a week for 5 months and take 1,000+ votes a year. Sometimes we may take 100 or 200 in a day (budget). Many of us (like me) don’t vote on “local issues” (like another county or district’s voting lines or school board make-up or…things like SC Native Plants Week). Many times we are in meetings in our offices, in lobby with constituents or others and miss votes. Sometimes we actually have a life and are called away (because of work or family) and aren’t present to vote. Heck, I missed one day of the budget and missed 170 votes. All those votes were like 100-2 (closest ones that day were 70-3 or 66-14 with all the others 90ish to 3).

Just recently, I came across the page you see above. People rarely know how many bills are filed, how many become law, and frankly – how bills BECOME laws . So this one page (“Legislation”) is really an eye-opener. If you haven’t been to the site, you should check it out. The video coverage is live streamed (a few seconds delay) and the “Chamber Dashboard” has bills and amendments LIVE as we debate. You get to see what House and Senate members see!

This site is also where you can contact your elected officials. Heads up though, most of us have “automatic replies”. While many replies say “thanks, I read them all but don’t reply”, I direct members of our community to be sure to put CONSTITUENT in the subject line or contact me here because it helps me respond much quicker.

Back to the title – how many new laws since January?

Depending on your preference, it could be viewed as “good” or “bad” that we’ve passed seventeen this session (and are 9 legislative days away from Sine Die). But that’s the reality. Each session may hold 2,000 bills and if 100 pass, that’s a big number! This session we’ve been bogged down with the ONE issue that I’ve heard about the most – ROADS. Three times the House has passed a roads bill. Hopefully the Senate will do the same THIS YEAR and we’ll have to see how it ends up in conference committee and what happens when Governor McMaster gets it on his desk. The threat of veto is there. Will it be delivered and can it be overridden is the question.