As part of an effort to assess legislators’ views on the length of session, balance of power and roll call voting, citizen reporters from The Nerve are posing questions to lawmakers from around South Carolina. In the following, Citizen Reporter Kim Murphy interviews Rep. Nathan Ballentine, R-Richland:
Q: South Carolina’s legislative session is the longest in the Southeast and the longest in the United States, among part-time legislatures. Would you support shortening the legislative session to no more than 45 legislative days?
Q: Because so much power is concentrated in the legislative branch, the leadership is therefore powerful through appointments to 250-plus executive branch boards and commissions. The Speaker of the House and the Senate President Pro Tempore, alone, make more than 120 appointments to executive branch functions. Do you believe there is an equal balance of power between the legislative, executive and judicial branches of SC state government? How would you propose changing the current system?
A: It’s no secret that our state constitution, written years ago, was drafted such that we are a legislatively controlled state. I certainly support a more-balanced approach of checks and balances. Regarding our judicial elections, I have written about this subject before on Nathan’s News and I feel we can make changes to improve this system (more than three judges cleared by the screening committee, disallow attorneys in the bodies a vote or influence in the process, perhaps having judges subject to a voter recall).
Q: Given that many of the legislative reforms citizens have asked for have not been implemented yet, would you support a change in leadership?
A: There are several leaders in both chambers (though we all may not have titles) that continue to work for much-needed reforms for our state. We will continue to work towards results (in both the House and Senate) and welcome every like-minded official to join the movement.
Regarding the Speaker of the House, I have had conversations with Speaker Harrell and believe this next session can offer great opportunity and results for our state under either his leadership or that of another. I have not yet committed a vote because it appears there are more and more possible officials offering their services in this capacity. When all candidates have come forward and when I’ve weighed all options and decided whom to support, I would certainly be willing to share my decision and rationale.
Q: For the past two years the General Assembly has only recorded 25 percent of votes they took. How would you propose improving the voting record in the House? Would you support a Constitutional amendment requiring recorded votes?
A: As I shared in a recent editorial to The State, I will pre-file Rep. Haley’s and my “On the Record Voting Bill” in December. I expect quick passage from my House colleagues instead of the bill sitting again for two years. The political process oftentimes involves the exchange of ideas and suggestions in hopes of producing the best possible outcome.
While Rep. Haley, I and several other co-sponsors have proposed what we (and thousands in our state) consider the best outcome, I am always willing to collaborate with anyone willing to ultimately improve accountability in a way that will not make a mockery of the process or of our people’s right to know how we vote in Columbia.
This can and should be accomplished next session and I look forward to continuing the push on this front. This should be law of the land and not a chamber rule. It is that important. Should a constitutional amendment be required, I would certainly be willing to allow our citizens the right to vote on this. I’m certain they would overwhelmingly approve if written in a manner that accomplishes the accountability the original sponsors have been seeking.