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.

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.

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!

Floor debate – Ballentine gets Autism coverage expanded

When I was a newly elected member, one of my first bills was Ryan’s Law . How did this law come about? From mothers of children with autism, meeting with me and asking for my help. It was that simple. (Note: passage was not easy or simple, but once these ladies shared their story – and particularily when one added “my family won’t benefit from the law; but many other families will” – I was hooked!)

Thanks to Lorri Unumb and her friends Marcella Ridley and Lisa Rollins (forever known as “Autism Angels”), South Carolina became only the SECOND state in the country to help provide insurance coverage for families with autistic children. Since that time, 43 other states passed similar laws – thanks to Lorri’s resilence and experience with the issue! Yes, she literally has traveled the country for Autism Speaks and made this happen.

South Carolina passed Ryan’s Law 10 years ago. With other state joining, with more data, and with the evidence that the cost was considerably less than expected, it was time to be sure every family could benefit. Back in 2007 we had left out a small group – frankly, as a concession in order to keep Ryan’s Law moving. Now was the time to go back and be sure those families were no longer left out.

I could write for days the fight to not only pass Ryan’s Law in 2007 but also to get what the House passed last week. For now, here’s a video showing my remarks as repeated attempts were made by other members to stop the passage.

Special thanks to Shannon Erickson for filing the bill that would ultimately be amended and help this language move to the Senate (where you will see in the video, the Senate has already unanimously approved the language before). There were also many behind the scenes that helped. Too many to name, but they know who they are. I’m forever grateful to each of you and look forward to helping Shannon get passage in the Senate before this two-year session ends.

State of “The Penny” (Richland Transportation Tax)

In April 2013, Richland County Council appointed the Transportation Penny Advisory Committee (TPAC). The function of the TPAC is to review, comment, on, and provide recommendations to Richland County Council regarding the Council’s use of the one-cent additional sales tax that voters approved in the November 2012 referendum.The TPAC is composed of 15 Richland County citizens representing Arcadia Lakes, Blythewood, Columbia, Eastover, Forest Acres, Irmo, and unincorporated areas of Richland County.TPAC members are volunteers who serve without compensation. Their terms of service range from three to five years. The TPAC meets on the third Monday of most months at 5:00pm in the fourth floor conference room of the Richland County Administrative Offices at 2020 Hampton Street. TPAC meetings are open to the public.

To learn more, visit Transportation Committee Advisory Committee information

I’m just a bill…in line with 2,000 others

When I was a kid, I thought this was a catchy tune; but never knew that Schoolhouse Rock actually did a very good job of summing things up.

While the video speaks of Congress and President….just substitute the SC General Assembly and Governor and you now know the process in very elementary presentation.

Sometimes students (or adults) will ask me “how many bills did y’all pass this year?” Some think passing a lot of bills means we “did something”; others (more often than not) believe less is more.

For the first year of the 120th Session of the General Assembly, here were the numbers:

From the House:

Total Legislation filed: 1,339
General Bills: 656
Resolutions: 683
Of those numbers, 52 General Bills became law while 621 Resolutions passed.
That means more 604 General Bills filed in the House didn’t become law and 62 Resolutions didn’t pass.

From the Senate:

Total Legislation filed: 805
General Bills: 467
Resolutions: 338
Of those numbers, 53 General Bills became law while 252 resolutions passed.
That means 414 General Bills filed in the Senate didn’t become law and 86 Resolutions didn’t pass.

Oh well…they still have a chance next year; but no doubt will be joined by a new batch of bills and resolutions in January!

As always, if you’re a constituent in the area and have a suggestion for legislation, please contact me here. If you’re outside the area, simply reach out to your House member of Senator whom you can find by going to the SC Statehouse website.

State Bill Could Address Congress Online Sales Tax Decision

From WLTX.com
Jennifer Bellamy (@JBellamyWLTX)

Columbia, SC (WLTX) — A huge benefit for online shopping could soon be a thing of the past.

Congress is looking at the Marketplace Fairness Act, which would clear the way for states to collect sales taxes for purchases made online, and one South Carolina representative wants the state to be ready if it happens.

“We’re missing out on $70 million right now. That means that there are South Carolinians who are buying merchandise over the internet who are required currently to report that with the department of revenue and they’re not doing that at the present time,” said Richland County Representative Nathan Ballentine.

He says that money can serve the state best by fixing roads and bridges.

“That’s what we need the most of, certainly we’ve got several core functions of government, but one that we’re behind in severely, severely and whether you’re a democrat or a republican, whether you’re from the upstate, midlands or low country we’d all agree, and we all do that infrastructure’s important . Not just to our citizens, but for our business and our economy,” he said.

Some of the nation’s biggest retailers support the measure, but small-business owners say it will create huge problems when it comes to accounting.

Across the country, states lost an estimated $23 billion last year in online sales taxes, and Ballentine says his bill, that has nearly 40 sponsors from both parties, can help the state.

“We’re not raising taxes, we’re not creating a new tax, we’re not putting our state in debt. We’re trying to find a way, a first step to fix our bridges and roads,” he said.

It is not clear what the U.S. House will do if the bill makes it through the senate, still Ballentine says it is important for the state to be ready if the measure goes into effect.

“I’m just simply saying hey, when and if congress does that let’s be ready South Carolina,” said Ballentine.

Ballentine’s bill is in the House Ways and Means Committee.

For more, read earlier posts on Nathan’s News:

SC needs to be ready! Improving roads without a new tax

Funding Roads without new taxes

SC needs to be ready! Improving roads without a new tax


Above video courtesy of Robert Kittle and WSPA.com

South Carolina Rep. Nathan Ballentine, R-Chapin, wants the state to be ready in case Congress passes the bill into law. He’s sponsoring a state bill for what to do with the new sales tax money the state would start getting, which he says is estimated to be $70 million a year. The new money would go to state roads and bridges.

“This is not something new. People are supposed to be paying this tax already; they’re just not, and this is a way to make sure that it gets collected and it gets to where the people need it, on the roads that they travel every day,” he says.

While opponents of the bill say it’s a tax increase, technically it’s not. If you buy something online and are not charged the state sales tax, you’re supposed to keep a record of that purchase and then pay that sales tax on your state income tax return. Very few people do, Rep. Ballentine says.

For more on this story, click on the WSPA website . Of course, Nathan’s News readers knew about this proposal several weeks ago .

I’ve been joined by more than 30 House Members from throughout our state. Republicans and Democrats alike. I’d appreciate your thoughts. If you feel fixing our roads without raising taxes can and should be done before considering raising taxes, I hope you’ll contact your elected officials and let them know to support these efforts.

Call to action: Richland and Lexington Republicans

If you live in Richland County and consider yourself a Republican, I hope you’ll join me for the Richland County Reorganization Meeting on Monday, March 18th at the Bluff Road Armory (1255 Bluff Road) starting at 6pm!

The Richland County Convention will be held Saturday April 20th starting at 10 am at the American Legion Post 6 (200 Pickens Street; intersection of Pickens & Whaley Streets)

If you live in Lexington County, please visit the Lexington County GOP website for locations of your meeting, TOMORROW, March 4th starting at 6:30pm.

The Lexington County Convention will be held April 13th starting at 10am at Meadow Glen Middle School Auditorium (440 Ginny Lane, Lexington, SC 29072)

Your precinct reorganization is where it all starts! I remember years ago attending my first reorganization meeting and jumping right in to help elect Republicans in Richland County, our state, and our country! Hope you will take an active role this year as well!

The State of the State Address

Filmed inside the Chamber of the SC House of Representative shortly before Governor Nikki Haley’s State of the State.

To read the full text of Govenor Haley’s address, click here .

As mentioned in the video above, here is the 2013 SC House GOP Legislative Agenda.