Nathan Ballentine

Halfway through the session

 

Wednesday of last week marked the midway period for the legislative session, and what a whirlwind of activity it has been. With this years’ shortened legislative session, the crossover date for legislation has been adjusted and will now take place in about a month on April 10th. This simply means my House colleagues and I must pass any legislation to the Senate by that date in order for the bill to pass this year. We made good progress on that front this week.

Last year, our nation saw a drastic increase in anti-Semitic behavior among college students at institutions of higher learning. The nonprofit AMCHA Initiative, which tracks incidents of anti-Semitism on college campuses, reported 618 incidents of anti-Semitism for 2016 alone; a rise of over 30 percent in a one-year period. This week, we took bipartisan action to give our state-owned institutions of higher learning the tools they need to combat bigotry and hate while protecting freedom of speech. This legislation sends a strong message that South Carolina opposes bigotry wherever it rears its ugly head.

Two key bills also cleared the initial subcommittee process in the House Judiciary Committee. First, the South Carolina Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act cleared a key initial subcommittee with a unanimous vote. It now heads to full committee and hopefully will come to the House floor before the crossover date.

The second bill of importance also clearing a key House Judiciary subcommittee this week was the Constitutional Carry bill. The measure put forth by retired law enforcement officer and pro-Second Amendment icon, Rep. Mike Pitts (R-Laurens), would eliminate the need to get a concealed weapons permit to carry a firearm in our state. However, this bill would also protect the existing CWP reciprocity agreements already in place with many other states. The measure now heads to full committee where, if approved, it will go to the House floor for a full vote.

If you feel strongly on either of those issues, I hope you will share your opinion and advice with me.

Finally, as you read this column, I hope the House has finished our work on the state budget. Budget sessions usually are hours long (we’ve worked through 6am once before) but I’m hopeful the plan we put together can be adopted by the Senate (obviously they will have some changes) so we can continue to maintain a budget that does not run deficits and invests in our state while living with our means. This was my first year on the House Ways and Means Committee so I’ve been involved more than ever before during my years of service.

It is an honor and a privilege to serve you in Columbia. If you need help navigating state government, or have any thoughts or concerns about what we are doing, please do not hesitate to contact me at www.nathansnews.com or by calling or emailing me at the State House: 734-2969 and [email protected]