LAURINBURG — A group of more than 30 business representatives and public officials have requested greater local autonomy to make local decisions from the man who may be representing Scotland County in the U.S. House of Representatives next year.
U.S. Rep. Robert Pittenger of Charlotte visited Laurinburg on Friday, touring the Scotland County Sheriff’s Office and meeting with the county’s leaders in a lunch held by the Laurinburg-Scotland County Area Chamber of Commerce at the Small Business Innovation Center.
Though Scotland County is currently part of the 8th Congressional District, represented by Richard Hudson, new maps drawn by the N.C. General Assembly last month place it in the ninth district, which would also include the southeastern portion of Mecklenburg, Union County, Anson County, Richmond County, Scotland County, Robeson County, and parts of Cumberland and Bladen counties.
The new maps are subject to approval by a federal panel.
Pittenger, a former state senator and retired real estate investor, has represented the 9th District since 2013.
“We don’t know how the districts are going to shape out, but nonetheless I thought it was important to get out there and start talking to people and understand what current needs they have,” he said.
The congressional primary has been postponed to June 7 pending the court’s decision. In his introduction, Pittenger propounded the need for financial deregulation in rehabilitating the nation’s economy.
“Creating an environment for the small community banks and credit unions is very important, so they can be accessible for capital for small businesses and entrepreneurs to start up,” he said. “We have limited the growth of small businesses, and that’s been the lifeblood of our economy. We’ve got to make capital more accessible so businesses can start up and so that they can expand.”
Those in attendance at Friday’s meeting included state Sen. Tom McInnis, state Reps. Garland Pierce and Ken Goodman, Laurinburg City Council members Mary Jo Adams, Curtis Leak, Dee Hammond, and Drew Williamson, Scotland County Commissioners Carol McCall, Bob Davis, and Guy McCook, County Manager Kevin Patterson, Laurinburg City Manager Charles Nichols, Scotland County Schools Superintendent Ron Hargrave, Sheriff Ralph Kersey, and Laurinburg Police Chief Darwin Williams.
Concerns presented included the lack of technological aptitude among the local workforce, deficiencies in the state’s system of mental health care, and prescription drug abuse.
As everyone in attendance made their introductions and requests, Scotland Health Care System Greg Wood said that deregulation is also needed in health care.
“From Medicare and Medicaid up to underpayments, charity care, and bad debt it’s not a completely free market,” he said. “We can’t compete, in rural America, with folks across the street who can only take for-profit patients. With the support we can get from you to realize that hospitals are trying to be different, but we need some regulatory relief to be able to do that, we can stay strong out here.”
Richmond Community College President Dale McInnis spoke in a similar vein, pointing out the need for tweaks in the federal Pell grant system.
“We could graduate folks quicker, help meet the needs of local industries quicker if students had access to those monies,” he said. “It wouldn’t cost any more; it’s just a matter of how the money is assigned.”
Asked by one participant for his views on the negative public perception of the U.S. Congress, Pittenger described the ideological chasm between its members.
“Some things do get done, but there are two different worldviews: there’s the worldview that believes that government is the author and the government mandates from Washington and Washington knows best,” he said. “Then there are those of us who believe in the markets and the dynamics of markets, the dynamics of small companies and individuals that power the country.”
Mary Katherine Murphy can be reached at 910-506-3169.