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Jones, Britt feel good about bills that ‘crossed’

Rep. Brenden Jones, RColumbus, and Sen. Danny Britt, R-Robeson, Columbus County’s two delegates to the N.C. General Assembly, expressed happiness this week with the success of legislation that they sponsored before the crossover deadline.

The crossover deadline is a mandate the General Assembly places on itself which says that bills that have not passed either the House of Representatives or the Senate are dead for the remainder of the session. That deadline this year was last Thursday.

Both were particularly pleased by the unanimous passage in the House of Representatives on the day of the deadline of the Pharmacy Fair Patient Practices Act. Jones was a primary sponsor of the legislation in the House and Britt was a primary sponsor of an identical bill in the Senate, where it still is being considered by the Rules Committee. Both Jones and Britt said the legislation would allow smaller pharmacies to compete with larger pharmaceutical companies. “This bill provides a more level playing field for independent pharmacies,” Jones said.

Britt was a Senate cosponsor of SB126, which passed the Senate unanimously the day before the crossover deadline and which adjusts the way state sales tax dollars are distributed. The bill is now in the House Rules Committee. Britt said the bill would have a positive economic impact of $3.2 million annually to Columbus County and $3.5 million a year to Robeson County.

Britt also was a primary sponsor of SB660, which modifies economic development incentives, called JDIGs, in the state’s poorest counties, including Columbus and Robeson. The measure, which passed the Senate 35-14 the day before the crossover deadline, is now being considered by the House Rules Committee. It would require that at least half of all such incentive grants be awarded in the state’s poorest counties.

“I am proud that both SB126 and SB660 have passed the Senate,” Britt said, “and I am confident that Rep. Jones will continue to work on these issues on his side of the General Assembly.”

A bill sponsored by Jones to create a task force to explore placing heart defibrillators in all state buildings and public schools passed the House 118-1 and now is in the Senate Rules Committee. Jones said he introduced the legislation after one of his young constituents, Victoria Harrelson, recently had a medical emergency involving her heart.

After a touch-and-go period, Harrelson is in recovery at a rehabilitation center and is expected to survive, but Jones said her chances of a speedier and fuller recovery would have been greatly enhanced if a defibrillator had been available when she suffered her emergency. “This is an especially important bill to me because we almost lost a young lady in our district and I want to ensure that our children are protected at any cost,” Jones said.

Jones also was a primary sponsor of HB600, the School Construction and Flexibility Act, which passed the House the day before the crossover deadline and is now in the Senate Rules Committee. The legislation would allow local school boards in Tier 1 counties like Columbus to use funds assigned to the State Board of Education for lease payments instead. “The bill will provide greater flexibility for our district to build new schools moving forward,” Jones said.

First-term House member Jones enjoyed a legislative first on April 24 when the first bill he had sponsored passed the House of Representatives. HB666 would lower roster requirements for volunteer fire departments from 20 to 15 members and the measure passed the House 116-1. It now awaits action in the Senate Rules Committee.

While both Jones and Britt expressed overall satisfaction with success of legislation they sponsored, nearly identical bills they introduced in their respective chambers to begin steps to establish a school of optometry at UNC-Pembroke failed to make it out of committee in either chamber before the crossover deadline. However, because those bills involve appropriations, they didn’t have to pass a chamber by the crossover date and still can be considered.

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