Staying positive in a pandemic

The world has definitely changed (for how long?). You may not be able to do things the way you’ve always done them; but you can still do most of those things!

Stay safe and get outside #LakeMurray

Plenty of space for social distancing on the Jewel of South Carolina, Lake Murray – more than 50,000 acres with 500 miles of shoreline and over 75 square miles!

Support Local Small Business

Most of y’all know I eat a lot of fast food. Often. At least twice a day – if not three times.

For those that don’t, you may not be aware that we have many small businesses (food service) still open and trying to make it through this mess.

Today, Isaac (Silver Fox Grille) shared that he had to shut down breakfast and was going to have to let staff go – but he made decision to try to find them hours during lunch so they wouldn’t go broke.

That’s the harsh reality many small businesses are facing – and not just food service.

Keep that in mind and, if you can, support local business!

Stay safe and let me know if I can help you with any state agency during this time. See earlier posts about COVID19 on this site (

COMMUNITY COOKOUT was a huge success – thank you!

The temp and humidity made it feel like 100+ degrees, but that didn’t stop everyone from meeting and mingling with local, state, and national leaders right here in our community!

Special thanks to Christina and Mark Woody who opened up there home again for this event.

Thanks also to Alex Salmon Photography for the video he put together which I feel captures the night and to Sam Holland for his wonderful photos .

For those that could not make it, this is a regular event I give to the community every other year. It started before I was first elected and continues to grow every year. I’ve enjoyed meeting new voters and bringing new officials for y’all to speak with in a casual setting. Too many times voters/constituents feel their elected officials aren’t accessible to them. This night is just one way for people to see their leaders not in the “stuffiness of coat/tie, board rooms, etc” but instead, right here on the shores of Lake Murray.

You can find information and videos of past cookouts here .

Thanks to almost 20 officials (all, who represent our area) who took time to be there for me/you!

US Senator Lindsey Graham
SC Governor Henry McMaster
SC Lt. Governor Pamela Evette
SC Senator Dick Harpootlian
SC House Representative Chip Huggins
Chapin Mayor David Knight
Chapin Town Councilman Leland Teal
Irmo Mayor Hardy King
Irmo Town Councilman Barry Walker
Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott
Lexington County Councilmwoman Erin Long Bergeson
School District Five Superintendent Dr. Christina Melton
School District Five Board Chairman Robert Gantt
School District Five Board Members Jan Hammond and Ken Loveless

The People’s House – getting involved

I had the privilege today to speak on behalf of not only 3,000 SC residents working in the solar field; but also for the millions of others in our state who are tired of the control utilities have on our energy policies and options.

Today reminded me of earlier battles I’ve been honored to help lead: On The Record Voting , Insurance Coverage for Autistic Children to name a few. In all those instances, it’s been the people OUTSIDE THE CHAMBERS speaking up, getting involved, and helping pave the way for the legislators to have the courage to vote for change – for the little guy – and not the status quo. Today was a good day.

We all know how the utilities completely mismanaged (nicest word I can use) the VC Summer project and how millions are left paying for something that will never benefit them. Those same utilities are now fighting to keep our state from offering ways to lower our citizens’ power bills thru the use of solar energy. Their greed is astounding. Those same opponents are also jeopardizing another 3,000 jobs in our state if the SC General Assembly does not remove the artificial cap from that bill over 4 years ago – a miniscule 2% was all that we could get passed back then. Today, the utilities admit that the 2% cap will be reached in the months ahead or by the end of the year at the latest. If no action is taken, more jobs will be lost and one of the few options ratepayers have in our monopolistic market will be gone.

Four years ago , the General Assembly unanimously passed a bill paving the way for SC to quickly become a leader in solar energy growth. This week we have a chance to continue that growth – and do so with bipartisan support. As noted conservative Erick Erickson shared earlier this year , “Liberals have dominated the clean-energy conversation for a while. They define conservatives as being dirty polluters. Now, conservatives are not only claiming the high ground in the clean-energy fight but also proving the free market can sort out even this issue without overregulation and subsidization.”

I look forward to the debate later this week. I’m used to fighting uphill battles for the little-guy. I’m used to putting People above Politics. With the help of those workers today making their voice heard, we can make a difference for our state – a difference in keeping and growing jobs and in keeping our state moving forward with lower cost energy options for our ratepayers.

If you haven’t contacted your Representative yet; please do so. Let him/her know you oppose H.5045 (pro-utility bill filed March 1st and miraculously made it to House Floor 5 days later). Let them know you support H.4421!

Reforming the PURC – what is it and why the need to fix?

Video from October 2017, House Utility Rate Payer Protection Committee hearing.

From the Post and Courier

COLUMBIA — Years before South Carolina was saddled with two failed nuclear reactors, SCANA and other utility companies hosted “appreciation dinners” for the lawmakers who pick the state’s seven utility regulators, The Post and Courier found.

The social affairs were held at top-end restaurants in cities across the country, with the state’s largest utilities lavishing some of the Legislature’s most influential lawmakers. All of these lawmakers were on the Public Utilities Review Committee. That little-known panel selects and oversees the commissioners who decide how much we pay for water, gas and electricity.

These same lawmakers would help choose the make-up of the state’s Public Service Commission, whose members earn more than $100,000 a year while deciding whether to grant utility requests for rate increases. That commission approved rate hike after rate hike tied to the unfinished $9 billion nuclear plant — nine increases over the course of the project.


Frankly, before the VC Summer fiasco, I had rarely (if ever) heard of “the PURC”: The Public Utilities Review Committee. But once we started diving into this issue last summer, I learned a lot. My colleagues did too. I could write pages on how messed up our regulated-monopolistic-energy-system is in the state. I could also write how the utilities single handedly stopped me from becoming Chairman of the House Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee. But for the sake of space, and your time, let’s just say that the utilities usually get what they want and one thing they don’t want is changes to the(ir) system.

During one of the many hearings over the past several months, my House colleagues discussed many issues with the PURC. The glaring issue was how much control these politicians have AND, how it doesn’t make sense for these individuals to receive gifts/contributions from the utilities they have direct control in regulating. Even with 2 of the 7 PURC members sitting beside me (see video), I successfully pushed for changes that level the playing field and have “normal people” (ie, not politicians) have the same number of seats at the table as the politicians do. The end result this past week in the house was passage of H4378 which – among other things – allows citizens equal say in who will decide important rate requests going forward and eliminated any campaign contributions, gifts, etc from utilities to this group that has oversight in the industry.

It’s always good when People, Not Politics win.

Columbia Rotary Club – Health and Happiness

Rep. Nathan Ballentine – Columbia Rotary Club from UTPL on Vimeo.

Been a member of Rotary International since the 90s and last year transferred membership downtown to the Columbia Rotary Club.

It’s a larger club than the Spring Valley Club I started in and larger than the Lake Murray/Irmo Club; but the meetings on Monday make it easier for me to attend due to my schedule. It’s also good to still have members of our community there with me each week downtown!

I shared a “Chicago Style Politics” joke with the club during Health and Happiness and had friends tell me they thought it was a pretty good one. There’s plenty of good people in politics but in today’s environment, people can get painted with broadstrokes. I hope none of my colleagues in Columbia take offense.

If you’re interested in joining the Columbia Rotary Club, let me know. Or check out a local Rotary club in your area. Our slogan of Service above self is what I try to live through my public service belief: People, not Politics.

VC Summer – Prudent?

Video above: Attorney, Scott Elliot, who testified Wednesday seems to agree the project was not prudent. The Office of Regulatory Staff and the Public Service Commission disagreed with this obviously.


This past Wednesday, the House Utility Ratepayer Protection Committee convened for the first of what is expected to be many meetings investigating the mismanagement of and decision to abandon the VC Summer Project.

As I have written earlier, there is much blame to pass around. These hearings are designed not to point blame but to instead how best to avoid another disaster like this again. And hopefully – to protect the ratepayers (and taxpayers) from continuing to pay for a big hole in the ground.

Rather than write for hours how we got here, I’ll provide links for all those who might be interested on the history of this debacle. Please see those links at the end of this post.

First, yes let me state up front that I did vote for the Base Load Review Act (BLRA) As I shared in my August Community Update, back in 2006-2007 finding new sources of reliable energy was a state priority not just for the utilities, but also the legislature as well. Staring at a potential billion dollar carbon-tax (and several other economic factors) our state was told we were on the verge of an energy crisis. We were warned of partial blackouts and waves of planned outages along the coast in the warmer months of the year. Finding new sources of clean energy was paramount. Legislators were told passing the BLRA was absolutely necessary to facilitate this new energy production in South Carolina. With almost unanimous support (only 6 officials out of 170 are on record voting “no”), the bill passed quickly.

Unfortunately, as we have now learned, the level of mismanagement and lack of oversight of the VC Summer nuclear project was off the charts. After 5 hours of State Senate committee testimony on Monday and 5 hours of State House committee testimony Wednesday, this became painfully obvious.

One thing stood out to me in particular this week. Inside the language of the BLRA, the word “prudent” (or variation of the word…imprudent, prudency, etc) appeared 33 times. Surely, someone at the PSC, or ORS, or even at the utilities would have noticed how important that word was since it appeared no less than 33 times in the bill.

Please take a minute to watch a few of the videos and read some of the articles I have included below for more detail on this.

Do you agree with Office of Regulatory Staff (ORS) and Public Service Commission (PSC) that the project was “prudent” from the start? Was it “prudent” to have so many cost overruns? Was it “prudent” to forgive the repeated delays of Westinghosue responsible for overall construction? Was it “prudent” for ORS and PSC to let those utilities continue spending money without any detailed construction schedule? Was it “prudent” for ORS and the PSC to approve 9 (yes, nine) rate hikes? Was any of this “prudent”???

No, it was not prudent. It was a gigantic failure of management and oversight all throughout this process.

The BLRA states “Where a plant is abandoned after a base load review order approving rate recovery has been issued, the capital costs and AFUDC related to the plant shall nonetheless be recoverable under this article provided that the utility shall bear the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that the decision to abandon construction of the plant was prudent. Without limiting the effect of Section 58-33-275(A), recovery of capital costs and the utility’s cost of capital associated with them may be disallowed only to the extent that the failure by the utility to anticipate or avoid the allegedly imprudent costs, or to minimize the magnitude of the costs, was imprudent considering the information available at the time that the utility could have acted to avoid or minimize the costs. The commission shall order the amortization and recovery through rates of the investment in the abandoned plant as part of an order adjusting rates under this article.”

So, tell me…if this entire mess was deemed “prudent” every step of the way; how can the costs related to the plant be recoverable because NOW the decision of the utilities to abandon construction of the plant are prudent?

Much more to come. As always, I’ll keep you informed and I appreciate the insight you give me each and every day. I will make sure we get (your) questions answered and ultimately figure out how to fix this going forward.

* Legislators told law may block SCANA from charging V.C. Summer costs to customers
* House Speaker calls for resignation of utility watchdog; Gov. Henry McMaster disagrees

* Management shake-up? SC utility chief expected to leave Friday

Text here.

Another fantastic Community Cookout!

It’s been a privilege for more than a decade to bring our community together and give a everyone a chance to meet and speak with their elected officials in a casual setting – FREE right here in Chapin! From Governors, Lt. Governors, Treasurers and SC Senators and Representatives , to our officials in Congress – US Senators and Representatives, to Mayors and Town Council Memberss, Sheriffs, School Board, County Council Members, Coroners, and many, many more. Staying in touch helps us do better jobs for you!

Even with a forecast of showers, the weather held off and the crowd turned out. Like previous cookouts, this year was the first one for several in attendance. Many who just moved to the area or who had never been involved before. That’s what makes these events special.

One surprise was when Nan Barwick (90 years old in October) came up to me and asked “Do you remember knocking on my door 12 years ago?” Actually, I did; but I couldn’t remember her name. I replied “Yes, ma’am. Your dogs are Bertha and Putter!” She smiled and was surprised I remembered her dogs (they’ve crossed the rainbow bridge since). That was a special moment for me. Seeing her for the first time in a while and remembering the early days and those early supporters and memories who gave me a chance!

On top of getting to see many old friends and meet new ones, I was glad to see Governor McMaster present the Order of the Silver Crescent to former constituent Todd Latiff! Many might not be aware but because I was able to get Todd on the Richland Recreation Commission years ago, he was able to help bring about the changes that lead to a completely new board and helped us restore trust in that office. Todd was one who worked to help me clean up Columbia (well, Richland County in this instance).

Last Wednesday wouldn’t have been the success it was if not for our community taking time out of our busy schedules to come together. Also, thanks to the many sponsors, hosts and supporters for helping with the event and my re-election campaign.

As always, if I can ever be of service, please let me know ! I love speaking to your church groups, civic groups, and all the youth groups – Scouts, Backyard Bible Club, etc. Elected officials that stay in touch year round (not just at election time) are able to better serve our communities!

Floor debate – Ballentine gets Autism coverage expanded

When I was a newly elected member, one of my first bills was Ryan’s Law . How did this law come about? From mothers of children with autism, meeting with me and asking for my help. It was that simple. (Note: passage was not easy or simple, but once these ladies shared their story – and particularily when one added “my family won’t benefit from the law; but many other families will” – I was hooked!)

Thanks to Lorri Unumb and her friends Marcella Ridley and Lisa Rollins (forever known as “Autism Angels”), South Carolina became only the SECOND state in the country to help provide insurance coverage for families with autistic children. Since that time, 43 other states passed similar laws – thanks to Lorri’s resilence and experience with the issue! Yes, she literally has traveled the country for Autism Speaks and made this happen.

South Carolina passed Ryan’s Law 10 years ago. With other state joining, with more data, and with the evidence that the cost was considerably less than expected, it was time to be sure every family could benefit. Back in 2007 we had left out a small group – frankly, as a concession in order to keep Ryan’s Law moving. Now was the time to go back and be sure those families were no longer left out.

I could write for days the fight to not only pass Ryan’s Law in 2007 but also to get what the House passed last week. For now, here’s a video showing my remarks as repeated attempts were made by other members to stop the passage.

Special thanks to Shannon Erickson for filing the bill that would ultimately be amended and help this language move to the Senate (where you will see in the video, the Senate has already unanimously approved the language before). There were also many behind the scenes that helped. Too many to name, but they know who they are. I’m forever grateful to each of you and look forward to helping Shannon get passage in the Senate before this two-year session ends.