Sales Tax Free Weekend: August 2 – 4

During the annual Sales Tax Holiday, a variety of back-to-school essentials are exempt from the state’s 6% Sales Tax and any applicable local taxes. Tax-free items range from clothing, accessories, and shoes to school supplies, backpacks, and computers. Shoppers will also find tax-free items for their home or dorm room.

Broadly, exempt items include: clothing and accessories; footwear; school supplies used for school assignments; computers, software, and printers; certain bed and bath supplies. Check out the shopping lists on this page for examples of exempt and non-exempt items.

For more info, visit: SC Department of Revenue SC Tax Free Weekend website!

2017 Equifax Data Breach impact you?

July 2019


In September of 2017, Equifax announced a data breach that exposed the personal information of 147 million people. The company has agreed to a global settlement with the Federal Trade Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and 50 U.S. states and territories. The settlement includes up to $425 million to help people affected by the data breach.

To read more and to easily check if you were impacted, click here and follow the instructions.

More about 2017 can be found here . And, of course, we all remember the 2012 incident in our state as well.

Am I the only one leery of even clicking where that link advised and putting in “last name” and “last 6 of social”. Hate to be paranoid but last week got me really thinking “big brother” is out there !

I went ahead and did it. Took Karen and I 30 seconds to see we were NOT impacted. Hope you weren’t either! Fingers crossed.

UPDATE on proposed housing projects in the area

Received this email Tuesday (screen shot below) after I followed up for a constituent about the status of the two proposed housing projects in our area.

Our community has experienced this before and I’m not sure what the final outcome will be. I’ve learned much during the past several years about these situations and frankly it comes down to “how much money is in the (federal) program” and “how may projects will that money cover”. The agency pretty much starts with high score and goes down the list of scores until money runs out.

One very interesting item is that during this past session (just months ago) a bill came to the House floor that would EXPAND this program to include STATE DOLLARS. Based on the feedback Rep. Huggins and I have received from y’all over the years, we quickly looked to amend the bill. If STATE DOLLARS are going to be used in the future, Rep. Huggins and I can have impact on that. As it stands currently, this program runs pretty much like I shared above.

As always, we will keep you informed as we learn more.

To view the scorecards of all projects in the state, click here .

D5 teachers, we need your input!

Hat tip to Ali Hendrick, a Dutch Fork High School social studies teacher, who was District Five’s 2018-2019 Teacher of the Year. Following her Twitter feed , I came across this:

From the SC Department of Education Website

At the direction of the South Carolina General Assembly through a Joint Resolution, the State Department of Education shall develop recommendations for reducing and streamlining the amount of paperwork and reporting required of teachers, schools, and school districts. These recommendations must include information on required reporting and administrative paperwork at the classroom, school, district, and state levels, the entity requiring the data or report, the method of reporting, and frequency of the report. The department shall report its recommendations to the Chairman of the Senate Education Committee and the Chairman of the House Education and Public Works Committee. The department has compiled the following survey questions in an effort to best prepare these recommendations.

Click here to help with recommendations!

What changed today? Monday, July 1st


The S.C. General Assembly passed scores of new laws this year, some of which take effect Monday with the July 1 start of the state’s 2019-20 budget.

Here is a rundown of those changes and how they will affect South Carolinians.


The state’s 32,000 employees will get at least a 2% pay raise, starting in July.

On top of that, workers who earn less than $70,000 a year also will get a one-time $600 bonus.

Lawmakers are spending an extra $61 million this year on the raise and one-time bonus in an effort to retain state workers who have complained their low pay leads to high turnover and poor morale.

Most state employees haven’t had a raise in two years.


Improving South Carolina’s struggling public schools was the No. 1-stated priority of the General Assembly this year.

While state lawmakers failed to pass comprehensive education reform, they did agree to spend roughly $159 million more a year, starting July 1, to raise teacher pay in an effort to keep frustrated educators from fleeing the profession.

The money will raise pay for all 52,000 public school teachers in South Carolina by at least 4%.

Younger, less experienced teachers will get bigger raises than their more experienced counterparts as lawmakers seek to attract new educators and keep them in the classroom. The raise also will bump first-year teachers’ salaries by nearly 9.4% – to $35,000.

Teachers who choose to be paid only during the academic year – and not the summer – will see the increase in their paychecks when students return to school in August.

Read more of Avery Wilks’ story at The State

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 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 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!