Much room for improvement by Representative Nathan Ballentine
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By Representative Nathan Ballentine
You’re not the only one wondering what South Carolina’s elected officials did this session to improve the quality of life for the citizens of our state. There’s a handful of us officials that feel your frustration. Like you, we’re tired of the constant bickering and finger-pointing that goes on in Columbia. We’re tired of the egos and the name-calling and we’re tired of the status-quo veterans who seem more than content on keeping things in South Carolina the way they have been for years.
There’s an African proverb that says “when elephants fight, the grass gets trampled.” Those words seem to fit state government – this year more than ever.
As I shared in December, the constant bickering between Republicans/Democrats, Legislative Branch/Executive Branch, and even intra-party feuds in the GOP are standing in the way of true progress for our state.
When I’m in the grocery store, ball fields, or churches in our community, everyone asks what was done this year to help education, jobs, and healthcare? They also ask about accountability and transparency in government? My answers: not much and too little.
Education: Before I was unceremoniously demoted for speaking out for more transparency and accountability with on-the-record voting, I served on the Education Finance Act Study Committee. While the committee continued to meet countless times, no changes in our system came from those efforts. We still use a very antiquated system for funding children and it must be changed. We also did nothing in terms of educational choices for our students/families (public or private). While our community continues to develop tomorrow’s leaders who graduate to two-year/four-year colleges and universities, the military, and the workforce; other communities lag far behind and the gap continues to grow in our state.
Jobs: A bill to reform the Employment Security Commission was sent back to committee (in my opinion, some voted that way just to spite the Governor). This bill was not going to be the “cure all” for our rising unemployment woes but it would have been a good start and personalities/egos kept it from passing
Healthcare: Once again, a modest cigarette tax-increase failed to become law. For yet another year our state is left with several uninsured citizens and more adolescents beginning the path of addiction.
Transparency: At least political opponents realized they couldn’t continue to fight this common-sense reform. In January, Representatives Haley, Wylie, and I were able to pass a rules change that led to more recorded votes than ever in state government. But we’re still not where we need to be. Until on-the-record voting becomes law (instead of a “House Rule”) there will continue to be votes taken with no transparency or accountability. That bill – and my campaign finance reform bill – never made it out of committee this year. One has to question why elected officials would continue to fight against recording more votes and reporting their fundraising activities before an election.
If there’s a silver lining to this past session it is this: there are a handful of us around the state that are determined to see action instead of delay on these important issues next session. For those that are tired of partisan politics, you’ll be pleased to know this group contains Republicans and Democrats. This group also contains leaders who believe like I do, people – not politics should be the focus.