NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) – State lawmakers in New Hanover County met with local leaders Thursday before they start the next legislative session in Raleigh.
State Senator Thom Goolsby (R) led the panel that included State Representative Susi Hamilton (D) and her newly-elected, Republican colleagues Rep. Ted Davis and Rep. Rick Catlin. Goolsby mentioned that State Senator Bill Rabon was not going to make it.
Additionally, Kure Beach Mayor Dean Lambeth added that Ft. Fisher and the aquarium there are down to "bare bones," asking lawmakers to keep the tourist attractions safe from further budget cuts."
The two veteran lawmakers stressed the importance of communication between leaders in Raleigh and the leaders in New Hanover County.
"Impugning knowledge on us of things happening at a local level that you hear from these various organizations that are taking your money and ‘lobbying' for you," said Goolsby, "we don't necessarily hear anything from them."
He cited the recent issue of forced annexation in New Hanover County. Goolsby said he was unaware of the consequences until then commissioners Catlin and Davis reached out to him personally.
Current commissioner Beth Dawson said she plans to continue the personal dialogue with the county's representation in Raleigh.
"I believe we're ultimately responsible for the citizens right here in New Hanover County," Dawson said.
During the panel discussion Dawson was joined by some of her fellow commissioners along with members of the Wilmington City Council, the three beach towns, the Board of Education and the local film commission. CFCC President Dr. Ted Spring sat in on the discussion, as well as District Attorney Ben David.
David, along with several others, explained his current situation as lead prosecutor in the county.
"When we have horrific crimes downtown the pendulum suddenly swings to everyone in this room," he said. "And says ‘what do we do to keep everyone safe?'."
David mentioned that he's working with several local governments and groups to open a crime lab in the county. He said relying on the Raleigh lab slows can draw out cases longer than necessary.
"Just the transportation of all the evidence and witnesses who need to come from Raleigh make it impossible to try the 3,000 DWI's, and many of them have blood tests, that we're going to have this year," said David.
In between others questions about funding for schools, transportation and tourism, the four lawmakers spoke about an effort in the upcoming year to modernize taxes in North Carolina. Goolsby said it will focus on lessening income taxes and increasing consumption taxes.
Catlin said he would like to hold some public meetings to poll the opinion of the public on such a major issue. With Republican control, the newly elected representative said he wants to do it right.
"It's unprecedented, the amount of responsibility we have," he said. "If we do things right, I hope we get the credit. And if we do things wrong, I'm sure we'll get the blame."
A consensus out of Thursday's meeting was that local leaders, regardless of where they serve, need to communicate more among each other and with state lawmakers.
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