COMMUNITY UPDATE: June 2010

*** STATE HOUSE ***

Last Thursday was “Sine Die” on the 2nd Regular Session of the 118th South Carolina General Assembly. As expected, the House and Senate approved the Budget Conference Report and now the only things left to wrap up the session are for us to return June 15, 16, 17 to deal with any gubernatorial vetos on the budget or other legislation approved by the House/Senate last week. (More on the budget below in YOUR MONEY).

Since May’s Community Update , I’m pleased to let you know that the Senate passed H.3066 (my Campaign Finance Disclosure Reform) and the Governor signed it into law. The Senate gutted one of the main provisions I had in place: our disclosure within 48 hours during the “blackout period” which is currently two weeks before elections. The other provision that survived the Senate (mandating all officials/candidates to file disclosures on-line) was important enough (saves an estimated $100,000 for SC Ethics Commission AND helps voters “follow-the-money” for all candidates/officials) that the House took “half a loaf” and accepted the bill as amended by the Seante. Don’t worry though, I will work towards the “other half” again starting next January by making that my first pre-filed legislation.

*** YOUR MONEY ***

This year’s Budget Conference Report passed with the closest budget vote I’ve seen in my six years in office. The House approved the report by a vote of 64-54 and the Senate approved it with a vote of 22-16. Obviously in any budget, you can find a few, many, several items you don’t approve and would change; however, in order to avoid a complete government shutdown, we often have to hold our noses to get a majority of votes.

In addition to the statement for journal I wrote, I was pleased to at least see us remove the Heritage Golf Tournament $10M loan; not add fee increases to fund the judicial branch, law enforcement services, DNR, etc; and remove airline incentives for a discount airline (which has now agreed to come to Greenville/Spartanburg and Charleston WITHOUT the incentives). Also, there appears to be agreement to work towards restricting future abortions in the State Health Plan next session. This was a key part of getting enough Republican votes to pass the conference report this year. As Nathan’s News readers recall, all these items were a few of the sticking points last month in negotiations.

Unfortunately, this budget again relies on federal stimulus money (the 2nd year of the 2 year Recovery Act stimulus) and also relies on additional federal money: the yet-to-be-approved Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) money . There is roughly $200M FMAP money in our budget that has not even been approved by Congress yet. Without that $200M, when January 2011 arrives, there will be even more cuts to agencies than those already in place. (These agencies/items are listed in Part IV of the budget this year). If Congress approves those funds, Part IV is funded. If Congress does not, Part IV is not funded.

Here is my statement for the journal: My vote today to advance the Budget Conference Report to the Senate, comes with the understanding that my House colleagues will join me in carefully and thoughtfully considering the expected Gubernatorial vetoes to follow this year. We still have additional opportunities to improve our budget with targeted cuts that can then help fund the core functions of a government to her people and also prepare South Carolina for the future. Rep. Nathan Ballentine.

Now…that brings us to the next phase of the state budget. Vetos….or is it Veto (singular) this year? The budget is now with the Governor who has 5 days to share his decisions. Based on the votes on the conference report (and other discussions among various officials) there appears to be sufficient votes to sustain vetos this year. The question is: will the Governor send one veto (the entire budget) or a handful of line-items? Should he veto the whole budget and either the House or Senate sustains that veto, we’ll be back to budget negotiations again. That would obviously mean pressure to have something in place that could again pass the House/Senate and survive gubernatorial veto(s) by June 30.

*** COMMUNITY***

Tuesday, in addition to statewide and federal primaries, we’ll elect our representative on Richland County Council. Once again I have heard rumors that supposedly I have endorsed a candidate in that race. This also happened in 2006 and I went out of my way then to share the fact that I do not endorse locally (only statewide or federal).We have two candidates to choose from: Ronald Colley and Bill Malinoswki . Visit their websites to educate yourself on both men.

I will mention that I have endorsed the following candidates for statewide office in the Republican Primary: Nikki Haley (Governor) , Bill Connor (Lt. Governor), Alan Wilson (Attorney General) and Kelly Payne (Superintendent of Education). Whether you are a Republican, Democrat or Independent, please get out to vote Tuesday, June 8 (and again June 22nd for runoffs).

There are two “advisory questions” on the Republican Primary ballot. You can click here to read those in advance.

Other voting: Please take a minute to go on-line this week and support two teachers in our community Clay and Heather Barnhart. They are finalists to perform on the inaugural voyage of the Norwegian Epic and need your support to make it happen.

Vacation Bible Schools! Obviously there will be several VBS in our community for your children to attend. My church, Riverland Hills Baptist , has ours June 14-June 18th. Please feel free to list your church’s VBS dates in the comments section below (with contact information/links) for others to see.

*** SCHOOLS ***

Because the last day of session coincided with District Five’s graduations, I missed them for the first time since I was elected. I hated missing them but know that we have graduated fine young men and women who will continue their education at colleges/universities, enter the workforce, or join our country’s military!

Last week, I did announce the 2010 Ballentine Scholarships Winners and am proud to share them with you here today! Makenzie Ashley (Chapin High) receives the B.C. Ballentine Scholarship; Lauren Barton (Chapin High) receives the J.D. Winburn, Jr. Scholarship; and Bethany Dickey (Dutch Fork High) receives the Margaret Jane Winburn Clarke Scholarship.

** THANK YOU **

Thanks again for the privilege to return to Columbia and represent the Irmo/Chapin/Ballentine/Dutch Fork community! 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!

I’m always eager to spend time with you 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!

During the summer and fall months, please 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