Rep. Brenden Jones, R-Columbus, and Sen. Danny Britt, R-Robeson, spoke to about 70 constituents Thursday in a session at the Lake Waccamaw Fire Department, discussing legislation affecting the area that recently passed the General Assembly and talking about new legislative lines that have been adopted as a result of federal court rulings.
Columbus County Commissioners Edwin Russ and Charles McDowell hosted the meeting, where attendees dined on hot dogs and soft drinks before hearing from the legislators.
Britt represents all of Columbus and Robeson Counties in the state Senate, while Jones currently represents all of Robeson and portions of Robeson and Bladen. However, new district maps just approved under a court mandate now splits Columbus into a new House district split roughly evenly between Columbus and Pender counties. Britt’s Senate district is unchanged in the new redistricting proposals.
Jones said that Rep. Chris Millis, who now represents Pender and would represent half of Columbus under the proposed new map, has assured him that will he turn to Jones for guidance on all issues affecting Columbus County, since he feels Jones can represent all of Columbus than Millis can.
However, that scenario was made moot by Millis’ announcement the next day, Friday, that he will not be seeking re-election.
Jones and Britt spoke about how effectively they, as freshman legislators, have been able to work together to bring home the bacon for their districts. “We have brought $18 million down to Columbus and Robeson counties,” Jones said, “and a lot of that was done in the last hour. We were the only guys in the legislature to get an earmark for $5 million put into the state budget, and that’s going for housing in Fair Bluff.”
Britt touted his work on legislation to bring broadband internet service to rural areas. “Our goal is to make sure that every dirt road in Columbus and Robeson counties has high speed internet. We are going to see that 5G internet service gets here real soon so that kids can do their homework on the internet and so adults can pursue distance learning.”
He said that, thanks to bills that he and Jones have filed, low-wealth Tier 1 counties such as Columbus now will be guaranteed 50 percent of economic development incentive grant monies and that Tier 1 counties now will receive $1.10 back for every $1 collected in sales taxes in those counties.
Jones and Britt referenced their joint work on legislation to allow counties more flexibility in using lottery proceeds to build lease-to-own school buildings instead of being restricted to using lottery funds only for outright construction of schools.
Both legislators also cited their close working relationship with Sen. Bill Rabon, R-Brunswick, a native of Fair Bluff in Columbus County. Rabon is chairman of the powerful Senate Rules Committee. “Bill is the godfather,” Jones said. “He’s the Rules chair and if doesn’t want something to pass, it doesn’t pass,” Britt said. “If he wants it, is passes.”
As an example of Rabon’s continued interest in Columbus County, Jones said that Gov. Roy Cooper wanted DOT-funded visitors’ centers in Tabor City and Fair Bluff to be defunded but that Rabon passed a budget amendment stopping that from happening. “Rabon still serves Columbus County and is a terrific asset to the county,” Jones said.