Redistricting – what does it mean to you?

For an thorough summary, you can click here to see what Ballotpedia says about it.

In simpler terms, I’d say it means that you may have a different Representative or Senator here in South Carolina. Or maybe a different US House member. It’s a long process that has to go through the courts once we finally approve a plan for the State. The plan must be approved (like all laws) by House, Senate, Governor.

Ten years ago, I was around when we did this the last time. I ended up “losing” some of my constituents over on Lost Creek and the Harbison area. I still stay in touch with many; but they have been represented by Rep Chris Hart since that time. When I say “lose” it means they no longer see my name on their ballots when they go to vote.

This time around, I may “lose” some more constituents because House District 71 has grown a lot in the past 10 years. Once the data comes in, other districts may have seen numbers shrink. The goal is to have each Representative serve the same amount of people across the state (as close as possible). Same with the Senate.

Currently (rough estimate), a House member represents around 35,000 individuals in SC and a Senator Represents 100,000. The math is: Take total population and divide by 124 for House. Take total population and divide by 46 for Senate.

To this day, many people don’t know who their elected officials are. If you are one of those, you can find out very quickly by going to the State House Website . Look down at the bottom of the screen (if on laptop) and type in address under FIND LEGISLATORS. (*If you are using mobile device, just go click on Find Your Legislators and input your address.)

Many folks out here also don’t know if Chip or I are their representative. Which is perfectly fine. We are deskmates and work well together and usually help whoever comes our way, regardless which district they live in. Rep Huggins represents House District 85 and we literally have streets where I represent one side and he represents the other.

You can see on the memo from House Judiciary Chairman, Chris Murphy, the House AdHoc Committee will convene soon. The Senate started their meetings earlier this month.

As we move through the process, I will keep you posted. If you have any questions, you can certainly reach out to me and I will get answers for you.

Golf Carts on our roads – did you know?

I’ve had several people ask, so here is a summary & links to more info.

“Before you or someone you know takes a golf cart for a drive, be sure to follow the checklist below:

✔️The golf cart must be insured, permitted, and registered with SCDMV using the following link, http://scdmvonline.com/Vehicle-Owners/Types-Of-Vehicles/Golf-Cart.
✔️The golf cart must remain within 4 miles of your home, where it is legal to drive.
✔️The golf cart may be operated on roads with posted speeds of less than 35 mph only.
✔️The golf cart may be operated during daylight hours only.
✔️The driver must be at least 16 years old with a valid driver’s license.”

Here is the SC law. I suggest checking with local governments for their ordinances as well.

BE SAFE OUT THERE!

SPECIAL ELECTION: Lexington/Richland School District Five

Everyone knows that I do not endorse locally and stay out of local races. Why? Because local candidates have plenty of opportunity to get their message out, meet with voters, and be seen around town.

I have endorsed statewide and nationally before ( Romney for President , my friend Nikki Haley for Governor , and Rubio for President ) but will always let our community form their own opinions on the men and women right here that should be out hustling for support and spreading the message of why they should earn our vote.

Tonight I did want to be sure that everyone knew important dates relating to the recent vacancy on our School Board.

1) Filing opens – Noon: Friday, July 30, 2021

2) Filing closes – Noon: Monday, August 9, 2021

3) Election Date – Tuesday, October 12, 2021

This is a RICHLAND COUNTY seat up for election so only those in Richland can vote. To check your voter registration, please click here.

Once I hear from the Richland County Elections Office on their staffing and precinct openings, I will certainly pass that information along. It would not surprise me to see precincts voting together at certain locations due to the nature of a special election.

Behind the Scenes: State House Office

This week I stopped in my State House Office and realized I haven’t had many visitors due to Covid in the last year or so. Not much of a tour, but wanted you to share for any curious. We aren’t back in session until January, so looks like I won’t see anyone here until then – but, as always, call me (803-734-2969) or email me anytime at NathanBallentine@schouse.gov

I’ve shared a few behind the scenes before; but never here at the office. It hasn’t changed much (if any) over the years.

If you ever want to stop in, please call ahead of time. I’d hate for you to just show up and I not be there. Honestly, I’m rarely in that office. Between my paying job and family, I spend more time at my home office than my State House Office. I usually stop in before or after committee meetings; but that’s about it. Most the time I pull into the garage 15 minutes before session starts inside the Chamber and then head out right afterwards.

I used to stick around years ago for receptions and things like that; but living nearby – I prefer to be at home instead. If you work for any of the groups hosting a reception, always call me and I can meet you there – otherwise I pass.

Want you to also know that State House tours are open again. If your family/friends, church group, civic group would like to take a tour, please call my office (803-734-2969) and we can help arrange that as well. These tours are FREE.

Hopefully next year, we can have visitors again inside the chambers. I know many of our local state championship teams have missed not being able to come downtown for their special moment of recognition. Over the years, Rep Huggins and I have hosted many champions from Chapin, Dutch Fork and Irmo. #PrideIn5

Please call me (or June!) anytime 803-734-2969 OR you can email me at NathanBallentine@schouse.gov – but PLEASE put the word CONSTITUENT in the subject line. Those emails stand out over the thousands of others across the state we receive regularly.

Thanks again for the honor to serve you in Columbia!

News from last night’s School Board Meeting

I was shocke to hear the news from last night’s meeting. Dr. Melton’s departure means our district will have our 7th Superintendent in the past 16 years.

From The State

Just weeks after she was named South Carolina superintendent of the year , Christina Melton has resigned as superintendent of Lexington-Richland 5.

An emotional Melton made the announcement at the end of Monday’s school board meeting, after board members met in an executive session and one member resigned mid-meeting.

Melton said her last day as superintendent will be June 30.

“This is a bittersweet message,” said Melton who called Lexington-Richland 5 her home and the staff and faculty there her family. “It truly is a privilege to lead District 5. … We’ve been tested, but we are resilient and student-centered.”

Vice chairman Ken Loveless, presiding over the meeting, accepted Melton’s resignation and said the board will hold a special meeting in the future to replace her by July 1. He said the district wishes Melton well.
Melton had been with Lexington-Richland 5 for more than a decade, starting as an elementary school principal. She won principal of the year in 2012 and district-level administrator of the year in 2016 from the S.C. Association of School Administrators. Just last month she was named S.C. superintendent of the year.

School board member Ed White announced during the meeting that he was resigning from the school board because of his disagreements with the school district’s handling of Melton’s resignation. White then got up and left the room.

After the meeting, Melton quickly left the room with other staff members for an adjoining room where crying could be heard.

CRITICIZED FOR COVID RESPONSE

Despite her accomplishments, Melton was criticized by some parents for her cautious response to the COVID-19 pandemic. School board members were criticized for deferring to Melton on when and how students could return to in-person classes at the beginning of the 2020-21 school year.

After the school board elections in November shook up the board majority, Lexington-Richland 5 starting moving more quickly to return to normal operations. When the board decided to move forward with a reopening timetable against Melton’s advice, it led to student protests and a walk-out of teachers at three district high schools that caused the schools to close.

For more from The State, click here.

For Dr. Melton’s statement, click here .

Meet your Dutch Fork Silver Foxes (Football): July 31st

SAVE THE DATE: Meet your Dutch Fork Silver Foxes on July 31st. More details to come! #Shoot4Six

Meet Ashley Miller – Richland County Recreation Commissioner

Ashley was born in Columbia, SC and she and her husband Brandon have three children, Ava, Eason and Nora. She attended Irmo high school and has been a native to the Columbia area her entire life.

Brandon and Ashley own a small investment company in Columbia as well as own and operate German Autowerks in West Columbia.

Irmo Little League and Friarsgate Park are near and dear to her family and Ashley and her husband have both volunteered for several years at the park. In addition, all of their children have played at Friarsgate Park and they are very familiar with the facilities and many of the families currently using the park.

Ashley told me “A large portion of our time is spent watching our children grow, play, make lasting friendships and become better athletes at this park. I am deeply passionate and a strong advocate for safety and positive change for all children and families entering our parks and recreation throughout Richland County. I look forward to using my voice for good and I am excited to serve!”

If you have ideas, suggestions or advice for how to improve our parks (Friarsgate Park and Ballentine Park) please let her know by calling 803-955-6110.

We’ve been very fortunate to have been served through the years on the commission by John Ecton, Todd Latiff, Cynthia Shepard and now Ashley. You may have noticed many rennovations recently and in years past as part of funding I secured for Friarsgate as well as improvements at Ballentine Park. Those monies come from state allocated funds to each county delegation. Serving on a large delegation of 15 Democrats and only 2 Republicans makes it challenging to secure the funds we need out here in the northwest corner of the county; but building relationships and advocating for our community – along with having a community member on the commission – helps tremendously.

Thank you Ashley for your willingness to serve!

Meet Mike Swindell – newly appointed Richland County Transportation Committee

Late last year, I put out a request to gauge interest in the community about serving on the local county transportation committee.

I had a few inquiries and some asked to be considered. Thank you to those that did. I’m pleased to share that as of today, our local representative on that committee is Mike Swindell. I met Mike years ago on the campaign trail and know that his demeanor and skills will be needed to help Northwest Richland County with our ever growing needs.

To be clear – he’s not your pothole guy. You can come to me for those or our local county councilman, Bill Malinowksi. But Mike will get a vote on the committee for some smaller funding projects in the county.

Mike’s bio from his paying job is below…

Michael S. Swindell focuses on Workers’ Compensation and Social Security cases. He is licensed to practice law in the state of South Carolina.

Michael is a native South Carolinian from Bamberg, S.C. Michael completed his undergraduate work and earned his J.D. at the University of South Carolina. Michael was a member of the South Carolina Army National Guard from 1981 to 1991 and reached the rank of Captain.

He is a current member of the South Carolina Bar, the South Carolina Trial Lawyers Association, and the Association of South Carolina Claimant Attorneys for Workers’ Compensation.

He serves on a number of boards for his profession and community. He is the Secretary of the Board of Directors of the South Carolina Worker’s Compensation Education Association. He is also a board member for the Mizpah Foundation and the Chapin High School Booster Club. He serves on the Board of Directors at Kid’s Chance of South Carolina.

Michael is married and has three boys: Scott, Chad and Ben. Michael’s hobbies center around sports, including football, wrestling and fishing. He is currently a member of Chapin United Methodist Church and enjoys singing in the church choir.

Floor Debate: Protecting Taxpayers and Our Natural Resources

Apologies for the video and audio delay.

Sharing some debate from the house floor over a new industry looking to come into our state.

As you’ll see, I support the efforts of this industry but not at the expense of tax payers or our environment.

My amendment passed 61-51 and the bill was sent back to the Senate.

UPDATED: Just two days after this floor debate, one of these facilities had an issue . Like I shared during the debate “stuff happens” no matter how well intentioned or prepared they may think they are. This is another example of why the amendment was needed.

The Weekly Rewind – Week of May 4th

Here are some items of mention from last week – week 16 – in Columbia.

SC Returns to Pre-Pandemic Unemployment Program

In order to address ongoing workforce shortages throughout South Carolina, Governor Henry McMaster directed the S.C. Department of Employment and Workforce to discontinue South Carolina’s participation in all federal, pandemic-related unemployment benefit programs. This takes effect June 30, 2021. There are currently 81,684 open positions in the state of South Carolina. With this, I am hopeful South Carolinians will be encouraged to get back to work. I get it. Some people will say “but people need that money”. I understand many have been hit hard during the pandemic; however, government should not incentivize people who are able to work. What has happened is able body individuals have been earning more income by NOT working than by working. Yes, I understand many may be concerned about Covid; but we need to get back to work and back to as much normal as we can. In life there is always risk and the risk from Covid has greatly dropped since this time last year. Read more here

Cheers! Gallo Wine Comes to SC

Wine connoisseurs and business communities alike are saying ‘cheers!’ This week, as we passed S. 619. This bill alters our state’s archaic liquor laws and will allow for standalone tasting rooms and fewer regulations on micro-distilleries in SC. A huge success for SC, this bill ushers in a major, international economic player and world-wide wine brand to South Carolina. E & J Gallo Winery will invest over half a billion dollars and 500 jobs in Chester County, SC where they plan to build their winery. I look forward to seeing how our state and local economies will grow because of this new law.

The Death Penalty

Under current law, those convicted of a heinous crime and sentenced to death, are likely to spend the rest of their life waiting on death row due to the lack of availability of lethal injection materials Currently, our state can only use lethal injection and there are no drugs available to administer their sentence. Not only is justice not being served for the victims and their families, but also State resources are being wasted. This week, the House passed S. 200, a bill that allows electrocution when lethal injection is not available. Much attention has been given to the firing squad being added into the bill. You probably may be surprised to learn Senator Harpootlian (Democrat) put that amendment in and he told me, having sent Pee Wee Gaskins to the electric chair, he believed a more humane approach is needed. After hours of debate, the House approved and the bill now goes to the Governor to sign.

Santee Cooper

The issue of reforming Santee Cooper has been ongoing for years, and this week, the House passed amendments on a bill that outlines reform, governance, and a sale process. While our area was negatively impacted by SCE&G/Dominion, others were negatively impacted by Santee Cooper. The bill ensures that there is transparency and accountability in the agency — ensuring that every ‘i’ is dotted and each ‘t’ is crossed. This bill prescribes a process for how the agency should operate, allowing for oversight from the government and transparency for ratepayers. Although there is no offer on the table from a buyer right now, it is important that we do not tie our hands and limit future possibilities, which is why there is also a sale amendment that outlines how that process might work. We passed this on Tuesday, but our amendments were rejected by the Senate. The bill will now go to a conference committee, where members of the House and Senate will meet to find compromise on the issue.

Other Legislative News
S. 231 Suicide Prevention Hotline – We passed a bill that ensures the National Suicide Hotline is printed on school issued student ID cards in public schools and public and private colleges in South Carolina.

S. 689 Income Tax Filing Deadline – On Wednesday, the House passed a joint resolution to extend the income tax filing due date until the same date as federal returns and payments are due.

Weekly COVID-19 Update
– South Carolina is in Phase 1C of the vaccination process. Under these guidelines, anyone 16+ is eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine with an appointment.
– Visit https://scdhec.gov/covid19/covid-19-vaccine/covid-19-vaccine-appointments to make a vaccination appointment at a provider near you.
– 42.6% of South Carolina citizens have started the vaccination process. 32.9% of SC citizens are fully vaccinated. 2,998,076 vaccines have been given to South Carolina residents to date.
– Want to see how our area is doing in the fight against COVID-19? Visit the interactive ‘Vaccination Dashboard’ by following this link, https://scdhec.gov/covid19/covid-19-vaccination-dashboard.
– For other FAQs regarding the COVID-19, use the DHEC issued fact sheet here .
*Numbers updated May 6th.

I’m at your service!

It is my honor to be of service to you and to serve the Ballentine, Chapin, Dutch Fork, Irmo community. If you need assistance navigating through the flow of information on COVID-19, navigating state government, or have any thoughts or concerns about what we are doing, please do not hesitate to contact me. You can email me at the State House: NathanBallentine@schouse.gov, or call me there at (803) 734-2969. You can also contact me through www.NathansNews.com, or call me at home (803) 834-4613. Of course, when you see me around town, flag me down and I’m happy to talk.