COMMUNITY UPDATE: January 2009

If you have events you’d like me to share on the website, please contact me directly through NathansNews and I’ll be happy to see how I can help pass along the news.

I hope everyone’s started their year off on the right foot and I wish everyone a very prosperous 2009 – personally and professionally.

STATE HOUSE

One week from today, the 118th General Assembly will convene for the first year of a two-year session. I am very excited to go back – even though we are in tough times here in our state. I believe this year will create our biggest challenges and biggest opportunities since I’ve been in office. We can and MUST work through these tough times, learn from them, and work quickly to get us on a better track (one that we can stay on for years to come).

There’s a lot at stake for South Carolina each and every year. Again this year, many of us are trying to lay the groundwork for government reforms that can benefit our state for years to come. It takes more than officials pushing bills and working for change, it takes you – the people.

Today, I was at a luncheon where a fellow House member mentioned that Immigration Reform would not have become law without the public’s outcry. I agree. While we are elected leaders, there are 170 of us in the state legislature. We each have our own vision and own ideas for where the state should go but YOU need to help us by also sharing your ideas and talking with us. If you find an issue important to you, call your representative. In order to have enough votes to pass common sense reforms and improve not only state government; but also, your quality of life, more than 60 members of the House must agree! (That’s no small feat either) Remember, the General Assembly is full of people from all professions but we all can use your expertise and opinions to help improve our state. It’s my resolution to be sure everyone remembers they have a voice and can and should be heard. Get involved and stay involved > www.scstatehouse.net

Over the past several months I’ve mentioned the changes we’ve seen since last session, the issues we continue to face, and have gone from not only doing regular blog entries; but also, beginning to “Twitter” and “Facebook.” I believe I can learn more about you, my constituents, and you can learn more about me and state government through these networks.

If you aren’t following me (or the other elected officials who twitter and facebook), feel free to start now. There’s bound to be lots of information to share in the next several months. As the push for more transparency continues, I’m pleased to share that the House Republican Caucus will soon unveil an improved website that should also incorporate many of the tools that I and others have been using to keep our constituents informed.

YOUR MONEY

Budget Committees have been meeting to begin the arduous task of constructing our state budget. A task further complicated by the fact that state revenues have dropped considerably (like other states in the country).

Don’t look for any tax increases this year other than the cigarette tax. This tax won’t be a cure for our financial woes but it is one that should be visited again this year. (Note: Yes, I have voted for this before and plan to do so again.) Instead of adding taxes to citizens this year, look for sales exemptions to be lifted. Our state has several tax-exemptions on the books which obviously reduce state revenues. At one time, I’m sure the exemptions made sense. Some might have been used to draw industry to our state; however, these will be reviewed this year by a committee that will present their recommendations for an up-or-down vote to update/revise these giveaways. Past attempts to “tweak” the exemptions through individual bills have led to each individual industry working to keep their exemption in place and, therefore, nothing ever being able to pass. By combining several exemptions as one bill with either a “yes or no” vote allowed, hopefully we can be successful.

One important transparency note to share: In talking with an Irmo Council Member, I hear that the town (with help from State Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom ) may soon put their finances on-line. Glad to see our local officials consider this service to their voters. Stay tuned.

Oh, did you know? South Carolina is now one of a handful of states that allows consumers to freeze their credit history for free. When you freeze your credit you are taking great steps in protecting your credit history and identity from potential thieves. It’s easy to place a freeze and if you ever need to use your credit history for some purpose, the freeze can be lifted quickly. To learn more, visit this AARP link.

COMMUNITY

Each year The State Newspaper recognizes their “20 Under 40”. These 20 individuals are nominated and recognized as exceptional young business leaders who are making a difference in the lives of others. This year one of our own community members, Barbara Koosa Ryan , made this distinguished list. You may remember Barbara from her golf days at Irmo High School. Congratulations Barbara on this wonderful recognition!

The battle with CSX Railroad and their attempts to condemn property here in our community are now in the courts. It’s been a long fight but nothing worthwhile comes easy. I applaud the Dutch Fork Community Group for what they have done and continue to do.

Be sure to tune to your TV this Thursday to the College Football BCS National Championship game. Some of our community teens will be performing at halftime! The Dutch Fork Dazzlers have been working hard for this big moment and I know they will enjoy the trip and make us proud.

With spring right around the corner, be sure you keep your kids active through one of the many sports programs in our area. Whether it’s the Irmo Little League , the YMCA/Columbia United Soccer League , or the Irmo-Chapin Recreation League , your kids can get outdoors and participate in sports! Registration information is available on those websites.

SCHOOLS

Ok, this next one is a reminder to me as well as y’all. District Five Kindergarten Registration for the 2009-2010 year begins next week. I can’t be alone asking “where has the time gone?” J.C. turns 5 in April. Wow! I know several other parents feel the same way this year about their little boy or girl.

High School Seniors in our community (House District 71) should contact their counselors next month for information about the 2009 Ballentine Scholarships . I will again continue these scholarships (named in memory of my family members and their respective schools) this year!

District Five will be holding a Career Fair in February at Irmo Middle School. Brush up the resume and be ready when it comes. We are always looking for GREAT teachers for our GREAT school district!

Lastly, special congratulations to the following teachers who were selected as Distinguished Reading Teachers by District Five:

Chapin Elementary: Kristin Lawson
Dutch Fork Elementary: Erika Cartledge
H.E. Corley Elementary: Angel Weeks
Harbison West Elementary: Kristin Mello
Irmo Elementary: Liesl Price
Leaphart Elementary: Nancy Graham
Nursery Road Elementary: Catherine Gram
Oak Pointe Elementary: Julie Wagner
Seven Oaks Elementary: Becky Krantz

The district winner was Liesl Price, Irmo Elementary. She also received Honorable Mention from the Columbia Area Reading Council!


THANK YOU

Thanks again for staying informed by visiting the site! Please let your friends and neighbors know about it so that they can stay as informed as possible, too. As you can see, I try to write often and regularly update photos from our community as well as videos.

Please contact my office, 734-2969, or email me at BallentineN@scstatehouse.net anytime I can be of service to you or your family. Please put the word CONSTITUENT in the subject line so that I can respond to the emails from members of our community first!

If you come to visit my office, please note I have moved to 320B Blatt Building. Just one office over from where I’ve been for the past four years. Also, Mrs. Eileen Fogle will again serve as my Legislative Aide. She works for me and three other Representatives and is a wonderful asset i helping me work for you!

Nathan Ballentine
www.nathansnews.com
House of Representatives, District 71
Richland-Lexington Counties
320B Blatt Building
Columbia, SC 29221