COMMUNITY UPDATE: December 2010

Hopefully you’ve received our Christmas card this year and will be able to focus on the true reason for the season! From our family to yours: Merry Christmas and may 2011 be a wonderful year for each of you!

*** STATE HOUSE ***

We’re a month away from the 1st session of the 119th South Carolina General Assembly where our state will see a new Governor for the first time in eight years along with 20 new State Representatives. It will definitely be different for me this session because every year I’ve been in office, I’ve been desk mates with Governor-elect Haley. The next several years she’ll work downstairs in the State House while I’ll continue my work in the chamber, sitting next to Representative Chip Huggins this session. Once again, I’ll share the same suite where I’ve been since the beginning, only this year Todd Atwater (R-Lexington) will move into the office formerly held by Governor-elect Haley and we’re not yet sure who will move into the office held the past six years by Nelson Hardwick (R-Horry County) . Nelson was recently elected as Chairman of the House Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environmental Affairs Committee. Since Chairmen have their own office suites, he’ll be moving out. When I know our newest office mate, I’ll pass along to you. The fourth member of our suite is George Hearn (R-Horry)

Last month, the morning after House members voted for Speaker , I learned I was re-assigned to the House Agriculture Committee. I was assigned there along with six new freshman members. Honestly, as a banker (only one in House) employed in the financial industry for 17 years, I’m not sure Agriculture is my strength; but like I’ve done my other six years in office, I’ll bloom where I’m planted (my Mom’s wording) and look forward to being Subcommittee Chairman for Regulations. I’ve been asked by several in the media about this assignment but so far I’ve held my tongue unlike last session.

To see what’s on the mind of elected officials, click here for the bills that have been pre-filed in the House and Senate.

Since I’ll be back in session next month, you can contact me by telephone at the State House at (803) 734-2969 or email NathanBallentine@schouse.gov (or simply click “contact” here at Nathan’s News). Reminder to constituents in House District 71 , please put the word CONSTITUENT in your email subject line and list your home address so that I can respond to your inquiries more quickly than the hundreds of others I’ll receive each week.

Session begins Tuesday, January 11th with the Inauguration being held at noon the following day.

*** YOUR MONEY ***

I was honored to be asked last month by Governor-elect Haley to serve on her Fiscal Crisis Task Force . The past few weeks I’ve spent time listening to constituents in our community, speaking with several leaders and residents across our state, and combing through budgets, graphs and data to get the best picture possible on where our state presently is financially and how best to get our state back on the right track.

The short answer is we’re looking at a “hole” approximately $800 million in size, just get us through the 2011-2012 budget. During my time on the task force, the picture has become more clear that we, as elected officials, are not only responsible for five to seven billion dollars in General Funds appropriations, we’re also responsible for an additional fifteen billion dollars in appropriations and authorizations (federal and other funds) to run our state government.

I’ll share more as we approach the budget process (written in the House by the Ways and Means Committee), but it’s apparent very difficult decisions will need to be made. Decisions that will take political courage. It’s oversimplifying the process when I share my “lifeboat analogy” but in very simplified terms, that’s the decision process we face. When you have teachers, disabled citizens , senior citizens and law enforcement (4 groups) vying for 2 spots on a lifeboat, two will get left out…and that will hurt. Hurt not just those groups but the elected officials tasked with making those dire decisions.

It won’t make matters better in the General Assembly if we let divisive tactics politicize the process. It’s my hope we can make these decisions together: Republicans and Democrats, House and Senate, Legislature and Executive Branch.

*** COMMUNITY ***

It’s not often a member of our community appears in USA Today, but earlier this month our own Russell Meyne (91, Pearl Harbor survivor) did just that! When you see Mr. Meyne around town, be sure to thank him for his service and let him know you saw the article!

Congratulations and Thanks are in order for three members of our community who I was able to reappoint to the Richland County Foster Care Review Board: Charlotte Foster, Duane Harvin and Gary Williams . All work tirelessly for the children of Richland County!

Tuesday night (December 14th), the Chapin Chamber of Commerce will have their Christmas Party at the Visitor’s Center. I hope to see you there!

Saturday, December 18th at 2:30 pm, I’ll join Representative Huggins and SCDOT in memorializing Mari-Caite Miller, a student who died last year after being struck by a driver on Archer’s Lane. You may have noticed recent sidewalk improvements on Columbiana Drive and hopefully more to follow.

Thursday, December 23rd is the annual Irmo News Christmas Party where you can find several of our local (and state) elected officials as well as several members of the Irmo business community. This will be the first year without Rod Shealy but I know he’d want the party to go on!

The Ballentine-Dutch Fork Civic Association continues to keep an eye on the potential of a 216 unit Marina Bay Apartment complex being developed in our community. The association meets regularly at Ballentine Park, check their site for details.

I enjoyed meeting with approximately 100 residents around the Koon Road area earlier this month and thank Eric Boyer for putting the meeting together. At this meeting, I brought members of Richland County Law Enforcement as well as SC Department of Transportation officials . Look for me to host more constituent service nights in the upcoming months. If you’re Homeowners Association would like me to come visit, please let me know as well.

*** OUR SCHOOLS ***

Tomorrow (December 13th), I’ll attend a “farewell reception” at Nursery Road Elementary School for Superintendent Herb Berg. As you know, our district has seen our share of Superintendents recently and I personally appreciate what Dr. Berg has done trying to bring the education community together.

Congratulations to our new Board of Trustees elected last month! Joining our re-elected members (Ed White and Ellen Baumgardner) are new comers: Kim Murphy and Jim Turner. Together, they’ll work with Robert Gantt, Jan Hammond and Beth Hutchison-Watson to set the course for our children and teachers. I would like to thank former Board Members Roberta Ferrell and Carol Sloop for their service to our community! In January, I’ll join other local members of the House and Senate delegation and meet with the Board to help assure we provide as much flexibility as possible to meet their needs during the upcoming year.

I also would like to congratulate our area high school coaches and student athletes on their great gridiron seasons! Both Irmo and Dutch Fork made it to the state playoffs while Chapin was able to have a great season under their new coach as well! The future continues to be bright out here in District Five as each school has/is building solid programs!

** 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!

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