Legislative Report: What’s going on in Columbia?

By State Representative Nathan Ballentine

Nathan Ballentine

The first few weeks of the year have been focused on committee work rather than full debate on the House floor.

Specifically, I have been very busy with hearings from our state’s colleges and universities as they present their needs (and wants) for the 2024-2025 school year. In short – they have A LOT of requests. More than $2 billion throughout the state. My job is to work with the House Higher Education Sub Committee (that I chair) as well as the House Ways and Means Committee (where I serve) to present a budget the House can approve in March and send to the Senate for their consideration. 

First and foremost my focus is on our students and the families that inevitably pay these high tuition bills or take on enormous student loans to earn a degree. My goal (along with the Governor) is to again have the colleges and universities agree to FREEZE TUITION for our instate students. I also believe we need more support for our technical college system in order to prepare everyone for a brighter future. With Emma at USC and JC at Midlands Tech, I empathize with other parents out there just trying to provide for their children in a tough economy where everything seems to cost more than ever. 

If you have questions about the budget, please call my office at 803-734-2969. Of course, you can always email me at [email protected] and be sure to put the word “Constituent” in the subject line. Having served our state for several years, I receive hundreds of emails daily from our the state and want to be sure your emails stand out so I can respond quickly.

While other committees have also been working, the House has found time to debate a few bills of interest to many of you in our area. 

The early focus this session has been on protecting our most vulnerable – our children. Last week, the House passed the  ‘Help Not Harm’ bill. This critical piece of legislation aligns with conservative principles and prohibits gender transition procedures for minors and bans any Medicaid or public funding for such treatments for those under 26. This bill took great steps to ensure we maintain access to mental health services, protect our teachers from being responsible for diagnosing children, and hold doctors criminally accountable for performing these procedures. My dedication to protecting the physical and mental well-being of our youth remains unwavering. 

Building on that commitment to safeguard our children, two pivotal bills will be debated this week that can reshape online safety for minors. H.4700 aims to regulate social media usage among young users by prohibiting minors from holding social media accounts, requiring companies to provide pertinent information to parents or guardians, and enforcing time-based access restrictions. H.3424 targets the accessibility of pornographic content, making it illegal for operators to expose minors to such material. Together, these bills form a comprehensive framework for protecting minors from the diverse risks of the digital landscape, and I expect both to be sent to the Senate by the time you read this article.

My commitment to tackling the drug crisis also saw a significant victory last week with the unanimous House vote to classify xylazine as a scheduled III controlled substance. This move is integral to our ongoing battle against the deadly combinations of drugs like fentanyl and xylazine, ensuring the safety of our communities.

As we continue to navigate through this session, I am committed to ensuring that our actions in the House reflect the conservative values and priorities of our great state. Our focus remains on driving economic prosperity, safeguarding our families, and upholding the freedoms and rights that define us as South Carolinians.

Thanks for your continued support and prayers this year. Hearing from you often is the best way you help me serve our community and state. If you aren’t receiving my regular Community Update emails, please let me know by emailing me at [email protected] and asking me to add you to the distribution list.

It’s an honor and privilege to serve you in Columbia. Come visit anytime we’re in session Tuesday through Thursday or call my office and we can help schedule a tour for you, your family, church, or civic organization.