COMMUNITY UPDATE – February 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. Hopefully, you’re a frequent NathansNews reader or either following me on Twitter or Facebook . I try to stay in touch as much as possible and these mediums help me hear from you and learn more about you – the people I represent in Columbia.

STATE HOUSE

January hasn’t seen much work on the House floor but committees and subcommittees are meeting every week and moving legislation through the process. For a quick primer on “What Does the Legislature Do?” simply click on that link.

One rule (not bill/law) that has already passed very early this year dealt with something NathansNews readers have been reading about since last session : On-The-Record Voting (or transparency). It took a lot to get to this point and while we’re still not where we need to be yet; but we are seeing progress and a little more accountability than the past. We need a state LAW though and several of us continue to work towards this much needed reform.

With the economy and falling revenues looming large, we’ll soon see full debate on the House floor with the state’s budget. In fact, on Monday (Feb. 9) the State Board of Economic Advisors will release updated figures and we may see some scrambling in Ways and Means committees before the budget is presented to the full House in March.

Coming as soon as this week will be floor debates on PayDay Lending, Ultrasound/Abortion and Election/Voting Reforms. If you’d like to know more about those bills or stay informed more than once-a-month, be sure you’re following The Weekly Rewind here on NathansNews every week.

Personally, my next push will be for Campaign Finance Disclosure Reform . Just another common-sense reform that provides another level of transparency in state government. Just like voice-votes, the way disclosures are reported today leaves room for improvement. My bill will require 48-hour reporting during the “black out period” two weeks before elections and will also require local candidates/officials (Countywide, School Board, etc) to disclosure their contributions/expenditures on-line like the rest of us.

Check back to NathansNews before March so you can let me know your thoughts on issues important to you with my annual Constituent Survey. This year, it will be available only online.

Speaking of constituents, this month I’ve decided to share the constituents of House District 71 that have taken their time to come visit with me at the State House. These meetings help me better do the job I was sent to do – represent People; Not Politics. Thanks to everyone who has visited this month: Mr. and Mrs. Robinson, Dutch Fork Elementary Third Graders, Sharon Dorn, Rosalind Funk, Robbie Koon DeFreese, Chief Mark Keel, Colonel Kenny Lancaster, Captain Zack Wise, Sara Moore (freshman, Ben Lippen), Carolyn Abrams, Traci Richard, Ben Thompson, and LaWandra Kelly.

YOUR MONEY

I could write all night about this topic. Rather than rehash how we got to this point, I’ll simply say that it appears this year’s budget will be $1.5 BILLION less than last year’s. Personally, I don’t have a problem with less spending but I do know that there will be needed programs that will be squeezed.

It’s my hope that my colleagues will remember these times and work towards avoiding or lessening drastic reductions in the future.

On a related note, I’m appreciative of the South Carolina Association of Taxpayers for recognizing me again as a Friend of the Taxpayer (Feb. 18). This marks the fourth time (in four years) that I have been recognized for my fiscal conservatism and stewardship of your tax dollars.

COMMUNITY

Later this month (February 24), I will again hold a constituent service night in our community. This event ( Meet your Representative ) is being sponsored by the Campaign for Liberty and is just the second event they have put together in the state. I hope you’ll join me at the Northwest YMCA on Kennerly Road starting at 7pm.

If you’re looking for a way to get more involved with our community – particularly with keeping it clean – I hope you’ll attend the meeting and/or contact me about serving on a special committee I’m putting together.

For Republicans in the area (Richland and Lexington Counties), we will be having our Precinct Reorganization Meetings in just a few weeks. Stay tuned to NathansNews for more information. (For my Democrat friends, if you have such an event and can share dates/information with me, I’ll give equal coverage as well. My intent is to always keep everyone as much informed as I possibly can about community involvement).

Last month, I briefly mentioned one of two community members who were honored by The State’s Columbia Business Journal as “20 under 40” in the Columbia area. This month, I want to mention Charity Garris (Irmo). Charity and Barbara Ryan Koosa definitely represent our area well on this very prestigious list!

SCHOOLS

While your high-school senior applies to colleges and universities for next year, be sure he/she knows to ask the school guidance counselor about the 2009 Ballentine Scholarships . $1,000 to University of South Carolina, $1,000 to Clemson University, $1,000 to Winthrop University or Columbia College, and two $500 scholarships to Midlands Tec.

Several students at Dutch Fork High School have been learning/sharing with prominent SC political figures over the past few weeks and also have many more visits scheduled. Ms. Kelly Payne civics classes have already spent time with me, Representative Nikki Haley (R-Lexington), House Speaker Bobby Harrell (R-Charleston), State Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom, State Attorney General Henry McMaster. Coming soon are Ashley Landess (SC Policy Council) , Representative Chip Huggins (R-Lexington), State Superintendent Dr. Jim Rex, Steve Benjamin, Representative Gilda Cobb-Hunter (D-Orangeburg) and several others.

Three students at Ballentine Elementary had their artwork selected to appear in the 2008-2009 South Carolina Council on Economic Education Calendar. You can click here to see the work by Hillary Jordan Melton, Taylor Ebert, and Ashlyn Aldridge. Way to go girls! (By the way, our community should be proud of our own Helen Meyers who serves as President of the Council. Helen and I first met several years ago when we were in the same Leadership Columbia class).

From District Five website: District Students DO NOT Go Door to Door During School Hours. We have had reports from community members that young people posing as District Five high school students have been going door-to-door in the Ballentine/Chapin areas during school hours asking individuals to purchase magazines as a school fundraiser. We would like you to know that District Five does not dismiss/excuse students from instructional school hours to participate in a fundraiser. Incidents such as these have been reported to us in the past and we would like our community to know that these are not our students.

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 in helping me work for you!

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