RALEIGH — A bill that keeps Robeson County in a stand-alone judicial district cleared the General Assembly on Friday.
The legislation, House Bill 717, was given final approval by the Senate on a near party line vote of 25 to 10, with 15 senators absent. The bill now goes to Gov. Roy Cooper, who can approve it, veto it or take no action and let it become law. If he were to veto, Republicans have override power in both chambers.
The bill keeps Robeson County in the Second Judicial Division, in Superior Court District 16B and allows the county to retain its two resident Superior Court judges.
Ealier this year a proposed Republican redistricting bill would have placed Robeson and Scotland counties in the same judicial district after a 30-year separation, and would have eliminated one district attorney and one Superior Court judgeship from the three currently residing in Robeson and Scotland counties.
Leaders of local law enforcement and government were vocal in their criticism of the bill, saying it would take from Robeson County the courtroom tools needed to fight the worst crime rate in the state. Among those critics was Republican Sen. Danny Britt Jr., a Lumberton resident whose District 13 covers all of Columbus and Robeson counties. He vowed in January to fight the proposed redistricting plan. He recently said he favors the version of HB 717 that was sent to Cooper.
“House Bill 717 in its current form does not make the drastic changes originally proposed by Rep. Justin Burr. I can say at this time, I am not in opposition to HB-717 in its current form,” Britt said. “In the January article (by The Robesonian), I stated redistricting should not occur without more thorough consideration. My goal as stated in that January article is that nothing in my district be impacted by this legislation. Today, I’m happy to say that I was able to maintain my commitment and fulfill my promise that no judicial changes were made with this legislation in Senate District 13.”
Britt, who is running on Nov. 6 against John Campbell, a Democrat and member of the Board of Education for the Public Schools of Robeson County, said the issue has been politicized.
“Additionally, I would like to add that despite mailers and Facebook ads to the contrary, the final version of this bill does not contain legislation that would take away our ability to elect our local judges, which is something I am very much opposed to,” Britt said. “We must maintain our ability to elect our local judges; and I believe the people would agree, that we want to exercise our rights to elect our local judges.”
Britt works as a private attorney.
Reach T.C. Hunter by calling 910-816-1974 or by email at [email protected]