2019 COMMUNITY COOKOUT – coming soon!

I still remember the first time I hosted a Community Cookout in our area.

It was before the election in 2004 and I didn’t know what to expect as far as turnout. It was my first time running for office and I was running against a 16 year incumbent who was my party’s Majority Leader in the State House. Who was going to come? I assumed it’d be my family and maybe a handful of campaign volunteers and supporters – and that would be it.

Much to my surprise it was packed at the Rusty Anchor! I remember running out of food and I thought “everyone will be upset and mad now”. My consultant told me “Are you kidding me?? It’s a GREAT thing you ran out of food. You had far more people than we ever thought would be here!” Fast forward, I won the election weeks later and decided that going forward, I would always have an event like that for our area .

The cookout has grown and after that first year, I began inviting local and state elected officials to come so that you and your neighbors could mingle with them in a casual setting here on Lake Murray.

Every Governor since I’ve been elected has attended. Along with other statewide constitutional office holders, our national Senators/Representatives, local state Senators, Representatives, Mayors, County Council, School Board, Sheriff, Coroner and more!

We’ll have food, drinks, music and a great time on the shores of Lake Murray right here in Chapin!

Here’s a video of our last cookout (I host these every two years). The weather was bad, but everyone enjoyed it!

The invitation is above. It’s free to attend thanks to many sponsors, hosts and supporters! Please contact DREA BYARS at 804-413-5951 or dreabyars67@gmail.com to RSVP. All cookout sponsors, hosts and supporters will have a pre-reception before heading outside to join everyone else.

All contributions are appreciated! You an easily donate in 2 minutes by clicking here – or you can send a check to Ballentine for House, 108 Tapp Pointe, Chapin, SC 29036.

Please RSVP so we have a good headcount for food. As always, Jim LeBlanc will be playing his guitar for the crowd (he’s been playing at every cookout…I think 7 cookouts so far!)

Hope to see you there!

Headed to DC

No, no plans to run for office in Washington.

Just heading up with a few others from our state later this month for a policy discussion on clean energy.

I’ve been fortunate to learn and be involved in energy solutions for our state and after serving as Co-Chairman of the SC Energy Caucus and finally seeing the “solar bill be signed into law this year, I’m looking forward to helping others across the country navigate the political hurdles involved in fighting big utilities.

For more information: CRES Forum: Real Clean Energy and Climate Change Solutions

Pride in 5!

Every year, I love being present to watch our graduates walk across stage and begin the next chapter of their lives!

Whether it’s a four year or two year university or college, the work force, or serving our country in the military, each one has their whole life ahead of them to find out God’s plan for their life.

This year I missed Irmo’s graduation, but below are photos from the other three high schools in our community: Chapin, Dutch Fork and Spring Hill.

You can learn more about the success of each of these classes by going to my Facebook page. Incredible accomplishments and no doubt a reason for all of us to have #PrideIn5!

Veto! What are your thoughts on these?

S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster Wednesday vetoed a total $40.7 million from the state’s $9.3 billion spending plan — leaving in place hundreds of millions of dollars to give pay raises to teachers, state employees and judges, and to return some money to taxpayers.

Below is his official veto message that I always like to share with my constituents. If you see a veto of interest to you, please let me know. To override the veto, it takes 2/3rd of the House and Senate. To sustain the veto, it only takes 1/3 of one body.


Dear Mr. Speaker and Members of the General Assembly:

I am vetoing and returning without my approval certain line items in R110, H. 4000, the
FY 2019-20 General Appropriations Act. However, I am happy to celebrate our successful
partnership in producing a resounding win for the people and prosperity of South Carolina.
South Carolina is on the rise. In the last two years alone, we have announced over $9
billion dollars in new capital investment and over 28,000 new jobs. Our agricultural base is
accelerating, our tourism industry is thriving, and we have become a major high-tech
manufacturing hub. South Carolina is the nation’s top exporter of tires and of completed

Our average annual manufacturing employment growth is 16%, the highest in the
southeast. Over and over we are recognized as one of the best places in the country to do
business, to visit or to vacation.

The current economic competition for jobs, investment, business, knowledge and talent is
as fierce and sophisticated as the world has ever known. It is a competition between states,
nations, companies and continents which offers reward and security for those who succeed.
Viewed in this context of economic competition, it is clear what we must do for future
generations of South Carolinians. We must compete. We must win.

In my inaugural address, I asked my colleagues in the General Assembly to work with me
in a new spirit of communication, cooperation and collaboration. We may wear different
jerseys, but we are all on the same team.

My executive budget contained bold proposals to keep South Carolina winning, and the
General Assembly has embraced and adopted over sixty of them in this state budget.
Together, we recommitted ourselves to providing the highest quality education for all of
South Carolina’s children. Recruiting and retaining excellent teachers was enthusiastically
embraced by both chambers and parties, resulting in the first of many steps to continue investing
in our teachers and our classrooms. Increasing teacher compensation was our first bold step, and
we will take more.

As I have previously noted, being perceived as weak in education is not good. But being
perceived as weak in education and not being committed to fixing it is disastrous.
The Rural School District Economic Development Closing Fund proposed in my
executive budget and included in this budget will provide the “spark” for recruiting jobs and
investment into our state’s most impoverished school districts. This funding will enhance
recruitment of companies in areas of the state which they might not otherwise consider – creating
jobs, infrastructure and long-term revenue.

Creating jobs and careers in these school districts will help transform these communities –
providing stability, keeping families together and offering the opportunities of prosperity. This
state budget emphatically begins the process of making the words “Corridor of Shame” a fading

Our classrooms and schools must also be safe, free from distraction and violence. That’s
why I proposed placing a School Resource Officer, a trained law enforcement officer, in every
school, in every county, all day, every day. The General Assembly has commendably provided
significant recurring funding to begin this process right away.

This state budget also fully supports my proposal to provide every public school in our
state with access to a mental health counselor through the Department of Mental Health’s school
services program. This way, the warning signs of troubled behavior and violence can be detected
before it occurs.

Thanks to a strong and vibrant South Carolina economy, our state enjoyed an unexpected
surplus in state government revenue. A surplus offers a rare opportunity for prioritizing the
essential needs of state government and then returning the balance to the taxpayers. While not
as large as I proposed, the General Assembly did embrace my proposal for a refund. For the first
time in recent history – and I hope not the last – South Carolina taxpayers will receive a one-time
rebate check.

This state budget also funds my proposed one-year freeze on tuition and fees for in-state
students at our public technical schools, colleges and research universities for the 2019 – 2020
academic year. I hope that this one-year tuition freeze will serve as the first step toward a
comprehensive overhaul of higher education funding and tuition reform.

Prosperity requires that we increase our investment in developing a skilled workforce to
fill the demands of today and tomorrow. The skills required in today’s modern workplace require
us to stay ahead of demand and adapt with rapid advancements in technology.

Accordingly, this budget directs more resources and funding toward enhancing workforce
training and development than ever before. Workforce scholarships and grants, apprenticeships,
skilled trade recruitment, and partnerships through our state’s technical colleges will continue to
provide South Carolina businesses with a pipeline of future employees who are ready to work.

One of the most important roles of government is to provide for the safety of its citizens.
Maintaining a sufficient law enforcement presence in South Carolina requires keeping
experienced officers in their jobs, as well as hiring and training new ones. This state budget
includes several of my executive budget proposals for public safety, including pay raises,
retention bonuses and the hiring of new officers. There are no finer law enforcement officers in
the United States than our own in South Carolina.

To my colleagues in the General Assembly I say: The people of South Carolina saw the
year begin with our pledges of cooperation, communication and collaboration. I believe this
state budget embodies that commitment. Let us continue to work together vigorously, thereby
ensuring that future generations of South Carolinians can keep winning and prospering.\

In that spirit, I ask that the General Assembly thoughtfully consider and sustain each of
the following vetoes:

The Weekly (and yearly) Rewind – May 24th


Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to serve as your State Representative in Columbia! This week we finished the first session of the 123rd General Assembly and I want to briefly touch on legislation that many of you have followed and asked me to focus on for our state.

To simplify things, I share that we had a focus on Education, Energy, and Economic Developement (while adding that I continued my push for more Ethics reforms).

During his State of the State address in January, Governor McMaster proclaimed this year to be the ‘Year of Education,’ and the House took that charge seriously by passing a transformative education bill aimed at fundamentally reforming the way we educate our children. The legislation we passed was the culmination of several years of work and meetings throughout our state with many stakeholders: our neediest school districts, district personnel, teachers and parents. While the bill sits in the Senate, I can share more below about other ways we focused on education in our state budget.

While not all of the bills that passed the House were passed by the Senate or signed by the Governor, here are a few of the major accomplishments from the House this session. As a reminder, this is the first year of a two-year session, so legislation that did not pass the Senate can be continued when we return next January.

The Education Budget

The 2019-2020 budget is built on the foundation of protecting taxpayers, a renewed commitment to being resourceful and efficient, funding core functions of state government, and providing value for every dollar we spend.

We devoted over $300 million for education in this year’s budget. Some highlights include:
$159 million to provide every teacher a pay raise
$15 million to increase base student cost
$68 million for workforce partnerships in technical schools
$10 million for school resource officers
$20 million for new textbooks
$19 million for new school buses
$2.2 million for mental health counselors
$44 million to colleges in exchange for an agreement to freeze the cost of tuition for in-state undergrad students
We funded pay raises for state employees, law enforcement, firefighters, and judges.
We funded education and treatment programs to combat the opioid crisis.
We devoted $25 million for disaster relief for farmers from crop loss and damage related to Hurricanes Michael and Florence.
We committed $40 million for new voting machines to ensure fair and secure elections.
We provided taxpayers a one-time $50 rebate from last year’s budget surplus.

More on Education

The House passed a comprehensive education reform bill that includes raising teacher pay, decreasing statewide testing, consolidating small school districts, and creating a committee that will monitor the education achievements from pre-K to post-graduation. The bill, crafted with input from Governor McMaster as well as teachers and educators from across the state, was sent to the Senate where parts of our bill (offered in smaller separate bills) have been moving forward. We are hopeful that when the Senate comes back in January, they move forward with passing the House bill.

Highlights from The S.C. Education, Career, Opportunity, and Access for All Act:

· The act raises the minimum salary for starting teachers by almost 10%. All other teachers will receive an average raise of 4.8%.

· It eliminates 4 of the 6 state assessment tests to allow more time for classroom discussion.

· It adds a 30-minute duty free break for all teachers during the school day.

· It requires school districts with fewer than 1,000 students to consolidate with neighboring districts to share resources and save money.

· It increases funding for school mental health services, school resource officers, new school buses, and updated instructional materials.

Energy Solutions – Solar

The Energy Freedom Act passed the legislature unanimously and was signed by the Governor. The bill expands rooftop solar energy options by removing the existing 2% net-metering cap, allows solar customers to be compensated for the energy they produce and send back to the grid, and establishes a regulatory structure for future solar energy to compete with larger utility companies. Solar energy in our state is booming. In 2016 there were 1,160 cumulative installations; today the state is home to more than 18,000 solar systems and is expected to add 22,000 systems over the next five years. You may recall last session’s battles that I and others fought against the utility companies in our states. This bill would not have passed without support from the SC Energy Caucus which I co-founded and served as the first co-chairman with Rusell Ott (D-Calhoun). That bipartisan effort, along with a push from many conservative Republicans who stood with me, enabled this year’s bill to pass with ease in just a few months. As I shared on Facebook last week, nothing worthwhile comes easy – this bill and movement is a testament to that!

Energy Solutions – Santee Cooper Update

The legislature is moving forward with the process of deciding ultimately what to do with Santee Cooper in wake of the $9 billion debt accumulated from the failed VC Summer nuclear plant by the state-owned utility. Locally, our damage was mainly done by SEC&G. For the coops and others around the state, the next shoe will soon drop. Like we did during the SCE&G hearings, we must determine the best way to alleviate further damage to our ratepayers. The Department of Administration will seek binding offers from companies interested in purchasing Santee Cooper as well as offers from companies interested in managing Santee Cooper. In addition, Santee Cooper will be asked to submit its own plan on how they would improve if allowed to maintain ownership. The Department of Administration is charged with evaluating offers from these companies and bringing the best proposals to the General Assembly to consider by January 15, 2020.

Economic Development

The legislature passed a bill that will allow professional sports teams the same tax incentives as other large corporate companies who choose to bring their business and create jobs in the Palmetto State. The Panthers are moving their practice facilities and corporate offices to the Rock Hill area, which will officially bring the North Carolina NFL team into South Carolina’s economy. This move is expected to bring at least 5,700 jobs and more than $3 billion in economic development to South Carolina. As a realist, I’m not sure $3 billion will be the figure; but also as a realist, I know the state will receive far more benefit than the investment we are making. I’d like to remind everyone that opponents saying “we’re giving $115 million to a liberal billionaire” are being disingenuous. We are not giving your money or money we currently have to anyone. We are letting a business keep a portion of their tax dollars only after they commit to investing and contributing to the bottom line of our state revenues.

Ethics – no more Golden Parachutes

After years of having my bill sit in committee without a hearing from a former Chariman, I was able to finally have a hearing on a bill that would save taxpayers from paying for “Golden Parachutes” for officials convicted of public corruption. The new Chairman of the House Judiciary committee gave me a hearing and the subcommittee unanimously passed the bill that, simply stated, lets all public officials (not just House/Senate…we’re talking mayors, councilman, schoolboards, etc) know that if they are guilty of public corruption, they lose their state retirement and state health benefits. The bill didn’t make it to the Senate (yet) but will when we return in January.

One other important piece (that doesn’t begin with the letter E) is close to my heart. As the son of a combat veteran (Vietnam) as well as grandson of veterans, i’m pleased to share that the legislature passed (and the Governor signed into law) a bill to elevate the South Carolina Department of Veterans Affairs to a cabinet level agency. The Governor also signed into law a bill that will give in-state tuition for military personnel and their dependents regardless of the amount of time they have spent in that state. The House passed the Workforce Enhancement and Military Recognition Act, which removes the present limit in relation to the income deduction of military retirees. It also allows military retirees at the age of 65 to deduct any military retirement income that is included in their taxable income. The Senate has yet to take up this bill. These bipartisan bills reflect South Carolina’s strong military tradition and show appreciation to our veterans.

I wish everyone to have a safe and enjoyayble summer. While Rep Huggins and I are out of session in Columbia until January, please know we will be visiting with you again and working on any state matters you need help with over the next several months.

Be sure to SAVE THE DATE (Wednesday, August 14th) for my “once every two years” COMMUNITY COOKOUT which will be held again in Chapin! As always, we will have state, local, and most likely federal officials present for you to interact with in an casual setting on the shores of Lake Murray! I’ll share more on my website at www.nathansnews.com. The event is FREE to the public thanks to the generosity of our Sponsors, Hosts, and Supporters! Hope to see you and your family there!

As your State Representative, I am honored to serve you in Columbia. Please feel free to contact me with any comments, issues, or concerns that you may have or tell me in person on August 14th!

Update on Education Reform Bill passed by the House 113-4

Golden parachutes for public corruption?

Next Tuesday, April 30th, two of my bills that I think are critically important to curbing any “shenanigans” from elected officials will finally receive a hearing. I originally filed these bills backn in December 2014 and January 2015 but those bills (and others similar to those) never had a hearing in Judiciary Committee.

H.3107 and H.3018

The origins of both bills stem from when our former House Speaker was indicted and later pled guilty to certain activities while in office. When this happened, I heard from my constituents about how they did not think “the punishment fit the crime”. I was also asked “are taxpayers still on the hook for his retirement?”

Not knowing that answer, I asked House staff. Yes, he would still receive his benefits. Retirement AND health/dental care.

My family is not on the state health plan, but I’ve heard it’s “pretty good” and I’ve learned over the years that the General Assembly state retirement is also considered “pretty good” as well. So….this begged the question, regardless of what the courts may impose as penalties for “acts of public corruption”, shouldn’t the taxpayer’s get relief instead of continuing to fund retirement for those that were found or pled guilty?

If you agree that you/we shouldn’t help foot these individuals lifestyles after their conviction or plead, please let your House member know.

NOTE: Unfortunately, the bill cannot impact any officials prior to ultimate passage and signature by the Governor.

Republican Craig Plank appointed to Richland County Election Commission

For years, there have been issues with our local Richland County Election Commission . Rather than rehash those, click that link and you’ll remember the nightmares.

In any event, I was very pleased this week to learn that Craig Plank had been approved by the Governor’s Office to serve on the commission. It’s my hope, Craig, along with independed Duncan Buell, and the 3 other Democrats will finally “fix” one of the most vital parts of our democracy.

NEVER should we experience what we did in 2012 , and never should votes go “missing”. I need to stop before I get fired up again.

Why is this news? There are 15 Democrat members on the Richland County Delegation. There are only 2 Republicans – me and Rep. Kirkman Finlay. Law requires there to be at least one member of the “majority party” and “minority party”.

After reviewing more than 100 applications and hearing from more than 50 applicants over a period of 4 hours, the delegation voted. Unforutnately, the Delegation did not appoint a Republican in the Top 5 – although we were told one of the 5 “voted Republican”. Equally shocking, 3 of the top 5 vote getters didn’t even bother to attend the public meeting to present themselves before the delegation.

In any event, I feel better that we were able to have the former Chairman of the Richland School District Two Board of Trustees appointed and serve our county in this capacity.

Better things ahead for our county once the commission hires a new director and works to ensure smoother elections for all.

May Community Meetings – Irmo, Chapin, Ballentine

Mark your calendars for these monthly meetings next month

May 6
Ballentine Civic Association
6:30 pm
Monthly Membership Meeting
Ballentine Park
The Ballentine Civic Association was formed to help build and support the Ballentine Community. We work hard to keep our community members informed and aware of all events, changes and updates that are happening in our area. We partner with local businesses to help grow and build their services. Our partners are what make our community great and strive to keep those connections strong.

May 8
Irmo Chamber of Commerce
Monthly Member Luncheon
11:30 am – 1pm
St Andrews Presbyterian Church
Please join us for our May Chamber Luncheon on Wednesday, May 8, 2019 from 11:30am-1pm at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church. This month, we will learn about the Palmetto Health/Prisma Health merger and they role they will continue to play in the Irmo community. FATZ Southern Kitchen will be catering.

May 16
Greater Chapin Chamber of Commerce
Monthly Member Luncheon
12 until 1:30 pm
Make plans to join us at the Ole Oak Barn Wedding and Event Venue, our Sponsor for our May Chamber luncheon. 1155 Holy Trinity Church Road. Kelly Jeffcoat, Cancer Survivor, Nurse Navigator helps diagnosed women navigate the healthcare system, providing much needed emotion support. She will be speaking to us about Breast Cancer and our very own LeeAnn Bergren may share a few encouraging words as well.
Lunch will be provided by Doc’s BBQ

Be back soon!

House members are on furlough until March 23rd.

Time for some R&R.

This photo is for all the Dads out there who know what beach vacation really means 🙂