RALEIGH — Sometime the new guy struggles to get his voice heard — but not Robeson County’s freshman state senator.
Sen. Danny Britt Jr. was elected in November and in his first session he has filed more bills than any previous senator — of any rank — in a single session.
“It wasn’t like I set a goal, I just felt like there were a whole lot of things I wanted to do, things I’ve wanted to do for some time,” Britt said.
Britt was told this week by Senate Rules Committee Chairman Sen. Richard Rabon that as of April 6, he had filed 81 bills as a primary sponsor and has his name on 114 pieces of legislation.
“I tell you, he’s a workhorse,” said Bo Biggs, treasurer of the Robeson County Republican Party. “People on the street have noticed he has jumped right in to his duties as a senator. Getting those bills passed is the next step.”
Biggs marvels at the enthusiasm and energy Britt shows while running a law practice, being a member of the National Guard, being productive in Raleigh and being father to young children.
“His personality is all about action and getting things done,” said Phillip Stephens, Robeson County Republican Party chairman. “As a military man he’s used to action and efficiency. We’ve not seen this amount of action from Democratic leaders. We are really pleased with Sen. Britt.”
Britt has been filing bills he feels are needed but also looking to address long-held beliefs.
One focus is investing in underdeveloped areas of North Carolina, specifically Robeson and Columbus counties, which make up his district.
Britt and Sens. Harry Brown, of Onslow, and Michael Lee, of New Hanover, sponsored Senate Bill 660, which aims to “clarify the importance of using development funds in the most distressed areas of” North Carolina.
Under the bill industrial recruitment efforts would put more emphasis on selecting project locations that provide the greatest relief to “communities experiencing chronic economic distress.”
The bill offers incentives to award Department of Commerce grants in tier one counties — those that traditionally struggle with economic development. North Carolina is segmented into three tiers, with tier three being the most developed metropolitan areas.
“Of all the grants handed out last year, only two tier one counties were included,” Britt said.
If the bill becomes law, contractors working projects funded by the Department of Commerce would be awarded bonuses for “work alleviating economic distress in development tier one or two areas.” It states that at least 50 percent of funds from such grants must be spent on lower tier areas and that funds are not used only for new investment but also used for retaining current jobs and expansion of existing facilities.
In education, Britt wants to reinstate bonuses for teachers who obtain advanced degrees in the field in which they teach.
“(The bill would) reinstate master’s pay for teachers who actually teach in their master’s area,” Britt said. “The criticism was there wasn’t a correlation between master’s pay and test scores.”
Pay raises for teachers who acquired master’s degrees was in place in North Carolina until August 2013.
“They will benefit and the students would benefit from it,” he said. “It incentivizes people to get masters in their field.”
Britt stresses that giving all teachers who achieve an advanced degree would be preferable, but that cost is high and studies have only shown improvements in teaching for those who study in their field.
Among the other bills he is championing is one that would change the way sales tax revenue is returned to counties. The legislation would benefit poorer counties, including Robeson, which is projected to gain as much as $2 million a year if the bill becomes law. He has also pushed legislation to raise the age a person would be tried in criminal court for non-violent offenses to 18.
Reach Mike Gellatly at 910-816-1989 or via Twitter @MikeGellatly