COMMUNITY UPDATE: May 2009

Hopefully you’ve been reading my regular columns (every other week) in The New Irmo News and/or following Nathan’s News closely. There’s been much going on lately and I try to keep you as informed as possible. Below is May’s Community Update for you!

STATE HOUSE

Once again, the House is on furlough this week and with as much time away as we’ve spent this year (and all the partisan bickering when we actually are in session), you’re not alone in asking “What did y’all actually accomplish this year?”

Folks, in my five years in office, THIS year seems to be the most contentious . Obviously with budget cuts things get a little testy; however, I’ve never seen the acrimony at this level; both internally within the Republican Caucus and between the Democrats/Republicans on the House floor.

This is no way to lead and effectively run the legislative branch of government. This summer, I’m looking forward to several of us figuring out a way to make this next session one that SC can be proud of with real accomplishments for real people! Of course, with 2010 being an election year for all 124 House Members and our Statewide Constitutional Offices, it might just be worse than ever!

This past Friday was the “crossover” deadline (May 1st) which means that any bill that had not yet passed one chamber (House or Senate) will now need a 2/3 vote from the other chamber (instead of usual majority vote) to become law. As you can imagine there are SEVERAL BILLS that have not cleared either chamber this year so we’ll have to work this summer/fall to get them ready to move along when we return in January.

Speaking of returning, the House passed our “Sine Die” resolution this week which will send us home on May 21 pending any budget vetoes and/or stimulus drama. And plenty of drama there has been already….

YOUR MONEY

Tired of the stimulus/state budget debate yet? Whether you agree or disagree with one’s position (for/against), it was good to see one of our own local students exercising her right in democracy with the recent lawsuit filed. I constantly tell my colleagues that our community is one of the most active – if not THE most active – in our state! (See SCHOOLS section below for more information on that).

One thing to remember in politics, sadly the extremes play their sides well. Reality is oftentimes in the middle.

Campaign Finance Disclosure Bill Update (H.3066): Many have asked “What’s going on with this no-brainer?” All I can say is that I was able to get TWO hearings and finally get it in front of the full House Judiciary Committee; however, the committee ran out of time on the last possible day to pass it to the floor so that it had a good chance of passing this year. Bottom line: won’t pass this year. Might not even get to the House Floor unless the committee meets again before we adjourn sine-dine on May 21st. Yes, it’s frustrating. The bill simply requires more officials and candidates to file their Campaign Reports on-line (transparency) and also matches us with the federal reporting standards by requiring us to report “late contributions” within 48 hours of receipt. Current law does not require this and thus, the name “blackout period” is given to the weeks before an election where no one knows where money is coming and where it’s going.

COMMUNITY

Later this week, I’ll post the results of this year’s Constituent Survey. As suspected, your answers tell me that you and I both are still common-sense minded folks who understand how and what our state should be doing. Unfortunately, sometimes the “status quo” fights these items. I’m pleased to report though that the “status quo” numbers are dwindling every election cycle. While there are days I am really disappointed and defeated, it’s only because we are so close to getting over the hurdle that I know there is a light at the end of the tunnel for all of us!

Last week a wonderful guy from our community helped raise over $120,000 for the SC Leukemia Lymphoma Society ! You can hear him daily on WVOC on the afternoon drive home and I consider him a good friend. Keven Cohen has lent his name and support for 10 years to this worthy cause and I can’t say enough about what he (and many of you in our community) did to set a record this year!

Tonight at 6pm, the Executive Board of the Ballentine-Dutch Fork Civic Association will meet at Ballentine Park Community Center. The meeting is open to anyone who would like to attend!

This Thursday, May 7th, is the 58th annual celebration of the National Day of Prayer. Click here for a few activities scheduled in the Midlands.

Palmetto Health wins round in Irmo hospital dispute. The board of the SC Department of Health and Environmental Control has agreed with Palmetto Health’s contention it can move unused beds from Palmetto Baptist to launch its planned Parkridge Hospital. Palmetto has been seeking since 2007 to open a 76-bed hospital adjacent to its medical office building at Lake Murray Boulevard (Exit 102).

The Lake Murray Pontoon Tour of Homes is this weekend, May 9th, and if you’d like to know more about the proposed “lake drawdown by DNR”, you can visit the Lake Murray Association’s website . I’ve received several of these letters over the past few weeks!

The Chapin Chamber of Commerce will host its Golf Tournament Monday, May 18, 2009 at Timberlake Country Club. For Sponsorship and Team Information, call 345-1100.

Thursday at the Bi-Lo in Friarsgate Plaza, WIS-TV personalities will be on site to help with this year’s Weather Alert Radios. I believe the time is 5pm to 7pm but please check with WIS or Bilo for exact times.

SCHOOLS

The graduating classes of 2009 (Chapin, Dutch Fork, Irmo) will celebrate on June 6th starting at 8:30 a.m. at the Carolina Coliseum! It’s always an honor for me to watch our community send out hundreds of graduates to colleges/universities and the military/workforce each and every year!

Lexington-Richland School District Five’s 2008 Annual Report is now online at the district’s website.

The 2009 finalists for the Ballentine Scholarships are almost set and over the next two weeks , my wife and I plan to interview each before awarding this year’s winners. Past winners and more information can be found on this website and I plan to do a “Where are they know?” post in the next few weeks.

Earlier, I referenced a Chapin High Student who engaged the political process (regarding the stimulus debate). Dutch Fork High School students continue to stay engaged with elected leaders throughout our state on a regular basis by inviting them to the “Den of Payne”. In fact, they even have t-shirts printed and continue to get a lot of buzz around the State House.

Bradley Studemeyer (Dutch Fork High School) has been chosen as WACH FOX’s “Teen to Watch” in May! While his video is not yet up on the website, it can be seen during their evening news shows. Congratulations Bradley!

Elizabeth Thompson (5th grader at Ballentine Elementary) understands how important jobs are for our state! She was recently showcased by the SC Council of Economic Education for her entreprenual skills at the school store – where the store receives a percentage of her handmade jewelry sales, and she keeps the rest!

THANK YOU

Thanks again for the privilege to serve you in Columbia! If you have events or people you’d like me to share with the community through Nathan’s News, please let me know and I’ll do my best to help!

With recess just weeks away, I am looking forward to more time to spend at your Homeowners Association Meetings, Churches, and other civic events in the community! Let me know dates and times and I’ll work to be there!

Please contact my office, 734-2969, or contact me here through Nathan’s News anytime I can help!

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