September's Community Update

Here’s this month’s regular update to keep you informed of what’s going on in the State House and in our community. Feel free to forward to your friends and neighbors!

Remember, when you send me email, please place the word CONSTITUENT in the subject line so that I can reply to your email before the others I receive daily. Even when we’re out of session in Columbia, the email volume is tremendous.

Each month new addresses are added the distribution list. If you talk with someone and find out they are not receiving these or if you have friends and neighbors you think would appreciate staying informed, feel free to have them email me and ask to be included. I’ll add them before next month’s update!

***Special note: My website will soon undergo a dramatic change (check back in the next two weeks)! The new site will help keep you even more informed than ever with more news on state issues, happenings in the State House, and community information that is shared to me by your friends and neighbors. You will soon find many videos, photos, and other information – as well as personal thoughts from me from time-to-time (commonly called “blogging”). This “blogging” feature will be a great way for you to see or read about “live” action during the session and know what bills are being debated and what key issues are on the House Floor. You’ll want to check the website weekly (especially during the session) to be sure you stay as informed as possible about your state government. This is just another way I’m committed to staying in touch so that I can better serve our community. ***

STATE HOUSE

In the past month, we’ve seen a new Treasurer elected as well as a new Executive Director of the Budget and Control Board. Many may not know just how significant these changes are in the political landscape but it will be very interesting to see how things progress when we return in January with this new dynamic. As you know, there is a constant battle between the Governor and the House/Senate. You may have read my comment in The State last Sunday which, I think summed it up quite well, “If I’m sick of it, I know the people of South Carolina must be too.” Let’s hope we can all work together to move our state forward. Thanks for your continued prayers and support. Change does not come easy but I am one that is willing to work towards that objective for the betterment of South Carolina

With so much going on in our community (see below), I’ll save space for that and simply let you know that there will be a Public Hearing on Thursday, September 6, 2007 regarding the 1998 Education Accountability Act and Related Issues Associated with Student Assessment/Testing and Standards. The meeting will be from 10:00 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. and will be held on the State House grounds in the Blatt Building, Room 101. I am a member of this committee and, if you plan to attend, I’d love to hear from you. Click here for more details and information regarding guidelines for testimony: http://intranet/sess117_2007-2008/agnk12.htm

YOUR MONEY

If you really want to get upset about out-of-control spending, read this link about how our state budget ended up out of balance by $81 million.

Click here for article.

Folks, this is what I fight against every day over here. We must realize that the “good times” will not always be here. We must learn to manage the state’s finances like we should be doing at home with our personal finances. As you can see, several items that were in the budget will not be funded. Obviously, that is good in the sense that many (most) were “pork projects”; however, some were items that are obvious state issues (ie: retiree benefits).

In an effort to curb the “project” spending, I will be asking my colleagues to join me in passing “Earmark Reform Legislation” next year. Much like US Senator Jim Demint is doing in Washington, I am hoping that we can get more sunshine on the process. If a legislator wants $1,000,000 for a Green Bean Museum (like this year’s budget), then that legislator will need to have his name on that request so that we can see where these funds are going and who requested them. Those that have been here quite some time are very good at “hiding” requests and funding so that you/me/others may never know who got what money and where that money was spent. Outraged? So am I.

COMMUNITY

On August 31st at 4:30 p.m. in the Dutch Fork High School Auditorium I hope you will join me in honoring and remembering Corporal David Weimortz (Dutch Fork Graduate, USMC) who gave the ultimate sacrifice last year in Iraq during this war on terror. David’s mother, Fran Fellers, and other family members and friends will be present at the dedication ceremony of the Corporal David G. Weimortz Memorial Highway which will be on Old Tamah Road in front of Dutch Fork High School. Click here for WIS story.

September 27, the day before Okra Strut, Rep. Chip Huggins and I will be hosting the Second Annual Irmo Community Prayer Breakfast at St. Andrews Presbyterian. Last year Chip and I held the first ever Irmo Community Prayer Breakfast at Riverland Hills Baptist and had over 200 guests present as well as several local ministers/pastors/leaders. If you could help sponsor the event, please contact Rep. Huggins or me. Sponsorships are $250 and provide eight tickets. This year’s speaker will be A.V. Strong, Executive Director of Project Gang Out. http://www.gangout.com/about-us-words-from-our-executive-director.htm. Please check The New Irmo News over the upcoming weeks for more information or call or write Rep. Huggins or me.

Please join me in congratulating Cassie Barber (Harbison) who was recently named Executive Director of the South Carolina School Improvement Council. Ever since I’ve known Cassie, she has been very involved in education and youth programs. She is a wonderful fit for this position and our state will be better because of her willingness to lend a hand in this new role.

Another impressive member of our community is Dutch Fork High School Junior Wide Receiver (starter), Stuart Jones. If you do not know Stuart, please view this video clip of him on the field. Click here for WIS story. Stuart is not able to hear but, as you can see from the clip, this disability has not slowed him down one bit! What an incredible story.

Chapin’s Labor Day Parade is coming soon! This is a must see event for everyone in our community. I’m sure I’ll see many of you along the parade route and at other events that weekend. Click here for Chapin link.

As you know, it’s also Okra Strut time! September 27-29 is the annual event for the Irmese and others in our area. Stop by and watch me fry Okra with the Lake Murray/Irmo Woman’s Club on Friday night.

Before I end the Community Section, I need to remind you that the Miss Irmo Pageant is September 15th in the Irmo Elementary School Auditorium. For more information contact Debra Carter at 622-9370. There will also be a Miss Irmo Teen competition as well that evening. Applications for both are accepted until August 31st. Contact Sarah Hoechstetter at 781-3326 for Miss Irmo Teen.

SCHOOLS

The school year is here! I want to especially thank all our district personnel: the teachers, the assistants, the administrators, the support staff, and everyone else who work to prepare our students for a successful future. We are very fortunate to have the quality schools we have in our community and it’s just one of the reasons I’m proud to serve you in Columbia!

Pulling on Same Rope: The Lexington/Richland Five Board of Trustees voted unanimously to hold a bond referendum in November to renovate existing facilities and build additional ones. Voters will be asked to approve a $256 million construction plan on November 6. Board Chair Paula Hite said, “We are divided no more.” In a symbolic gesture following the unanimous vote, the school board posed for photos while they all “pulled on the same rope,” a phrase that Superintendent Scott AndersEn encourages all members of the District Five community to embrace. School District Five.

High School Football is around the corner. The season kicks-off with Irmo playing at Dutch Fork Friday while Chapin will host Chapman for the Eagles’ home opener. Please show your support of our student-athletes (on and off the field) and get ready for a championship season from our community teams!

THANK YOU

Earlier this month, we had a tremendous turnout at the Community Cookout that I hosted with several other sponsors at The Rusty Anchor and I want to again thank everyone for their support. What a great evening for food, music, and fellowship. With so many community officials and neighbors attending, it was a great chance for everyone to talk about issues in our community and keep communication lines open between elected officials and their constituents.

I want to thank you for the honor you give me representing you in the South Carolina House of Representatives. Please contact my office, 734-2969, or email me at BallentineN@scstatehouse.net anytime I can be of service to you or your family.

During the summer and winter months, it may take a little extra time to have your email returned – but please know that I read everyone I receive!

Nathan Ballentine
House of Representatives, District 71
Richland-Lexington Counties
320A Blatt Building
Columbia, SC 29221