COMMUNITY UPDATE: February 2011

Be sure to pick up your weekly copy of The Irmo News to see weekly Legislative Updates, focused on activity inside the State House. Represenative Huggins and I rotate columns each week in order to keep you informed! As always, I try to write a community update each month here on Nathan’s News to also keep you informed what’s going on here in Irmo/Chapin/Ballentine/White Rock/Dutch Fork area.

*** STATE HOUSE ***

We’re a month into the session and, while we’re passing important legislation already, we are also all working on the upcoming budget (floor debate mid-March). A budget that Nathan’s News readers know has more than $800 million deficit compared to our current year’s budget.

It is premature to talk specifics at this point; particularly when many have differing ideas on how “best” to manage the crisis. I’ll again simply say this: look for cuts in “Education” and “Health Care” as those areas represent 70%+ of the General Funds portion of our budget. While we are in dire straits , it should be pointed out that state revenues are INCREASING. Problem is they have not increased enough to cover the stimulus money that’s propped us up and also our spending for the past few years.

Please feel free to call or email with any questions for clarification or more information about what you may hear in the news or from your friends. For example: many were up-in-arms when they heard proposals to cut “the Arts” earlier this month. What you may not have heard is that the cuts recommended were to the Arts Commission, where 77% of the $2.5million state funds are used for administrative salary….not grants. We aren’t taking violins from kids and smashing them on the floor, as it may have been portrayed.

Whether the Arts Commission salaries are cut from this year’s budget remains to be seen; however, I want everyone to know that like everything, there are two sides (or more) to every debate. The bright side to all this is that more citizens will start getting involved in the process and that is always a good thing, in my opinion.

*** YOUR MONEY ***

I touched on it above, but obviously how we spend your money this year is going to be the biggest topic of discussion (besides how the voting lines are drawn in redistricting). Closer to home, Richland County residents may be interested to know that of the $40,000 I secured from the State Parks, Recreation and Tourism (“PRT”) in July 2008, there is still $20,000 unused because the Richland County Recreation Commission continues to drop the ball. You may recall the gunshots, trespassing that occurred at Friarsgate Park a few years back. Because of that and meetings with constituents that use the park, we learned more security needed to be put in place. Through a grant program given to every county in our state by “PRT”, I secured the funds and work began to complete a fence around the perimeter of the park. That work apparently was never completed and last week I received a letter stating those reserved funds will expire this May. This is unacceptable, yet, not surprising from the Recreation Commission. These (in)actions also lead to many of you paying extra fees to utilizie the Irmo Chapin Recreation program. Please know I continue to work with members of the Richland County Delegation to try to fix these issues.

*** COMMUNITY ***

Spirit of Lake Murray Valentine’s cruises: If you haven’t been on The Spirit of Lake Murray yet, you are missing out! This month there are two great opportunities for you (and your family) to experience dinner while cruising our most beautiful natural resource in the area! I might surprise Karen with a Valentine’s Day Couples Cruise. Shhhh!

Cub Scout Pack 48 “Scouting for Food”: Starting February 5th, Cub Scout Pack 48 will be conducting a food drive to benefit the Sharing God’s Love food pantry located in Irmo. Please leave non-perishable food items in a box on your front porch or next to your mail box on Saturday, February 12th before 9:00am. Questions? Contact Harold Lind, food drive leader (553-9986).

2011 Friends of Scouting Dinner: March 9, 2011 at the Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center. I hope you’ll join me in a great event for the Indian Waters Council and an evening with Andrew Card (former Chief of Staff for President George W Bush. Funds raised will provide the Scouting program to more-than 8,000 youth members in the Midlands of South Carolina. Scouting continues to thrive in our area largely due
to friends like you who support the mission “to instill values in young people that will last a lifetime.”
We hope you will join us for this very large and important event. There is no ticket cost for the dinner; instead you will be asked to pledge your financial support. If you have already pledged, we thank
you and hope you can still join us and see how your gift is helping to transform lives! To confirm your reservation and/or sponsor a table, please check the appropriate lines on the form (link here) and fax to 803-750-9955; or call us at 803-750-9841.

Lake Murray/Irmo Rotary Club “Pins for Polio”: Karen and I (and the kids too!) will be at Anchor Lanes on Saturday, March 5th from 1pm to 3pm for a great family-fun event sponsored by my Rotary Club! We hope you’ll join us and consider a sponsorship or simply by showing up with a team of bowlers ready for some fun. Proceeds go to Rotary International’s mission to eradicate Polio from the planet. Questions? Call 603-7292.

Walk Across the Dam: School District Five of Lexington and Richland Counties is sponsoring a walking event to encourage active lifestyles for students and communities. The walk will take place across the Lake Murray Dam on Saturday, March 5 at 9 a.m. All ages are welcome to participate. The event is noncompetitive. All Lexington-Richland Five student participants will receive a t-shirt. Walking buddies and/or community member may pay $10 for a t-shirt. A link to the registration form can be found here . The registration deadline is February 15.

*** OUR SCHOOLS ***

Snow day(s) relief: Representative Huggins and I are filing legislation Tuesday to waive all snow days for District Five. Chip and I have given this much thought and feel it is best to do after listening to many in the district. Usually these local bills pass without debate; however, this year when the House bills dealing with “snow days” have gone to the Senate they are being sent to the Education Committee where they reside, waiting for some sort of action from the Senators.

Reception Honoring Dr. Stephen Hefner : A reception to welcome Superintendent Stephen Hefner to the school district will be held on Monday, February 14 from 4:30-6 p.m. at River Springs Elementary. The reception was rescheduled from the original date due to inclement weather. The community, staff and others are invited to come meet Dr. Hefner and welcome him to the district. The meeting will be held prior to the school board meeting, which begins at 7 p.m.

Chapin Cheerleaders at State House: For the third year in a row, this group of ladies visited the State House and were recognized for winning the AAA State Championship! I was tied up with my paying job that morning and unable to be there personally, but Rep. Huggins and Rep. McLeod presented them with their House Resolution and beamed with pride as they welcomed the ladies to the floor of the House of Representatives!

** THANK YOU **

Thanks again for the privilege you give me to represent the Irmo/Chapin/Ballentine/Dutch Fork community! If you have events or people you’d like me to share with our community right here 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