In 2011 hardly a day went by without some reporter or pundit decrying the “abrupt turn to the right” of the North Carolina House and Senate. These cries of alarm were multiplied in 2013 when, for the first time in 144 years, a Republican Governor met a Republican legislative majority upon his inauguration. When newspaper commentators talked about an “abrupt turn to the right” what they meant was sound conservative government. They were right.
In 2010, Republicans, including myself as House Minority Leader and Thom Tillis as House Minority Whip, campaigned all over the state telling voters what we would do if we obtained a majority. We obtained that majority and we accomplished almost everything on our agenda. What did we do?
The Democrats budgeted by continually increasing tax rates before and during the recession. We stopped that. We repealed the temporary sales tax and the temporary income tax surcharge to the tune of $1 billion per year. Then in 2013, with Gov. McCrory’s support, we passed real tax reform lowering income tax rates for everybody – EVERYBODY – while eliminating dozens of loopholes. Our overall tax burden went from 6th worst in the country to 17th best. We are much more competitive now and the jobless rates and job gains reflect it.
We started on regulatory reform in 2011 as much as we could with Governor Perdue in the way. We took more huge strides in 2013. Squeals from the left were deafening. Long-overdue election reform elicited howls from Democratic leaders even though most of their voters approved.
In 2011 we started a major expansion of educational opportunities. This continued in 2013 after Governor Perdue lost her veto pen. In 2011 we passed scholarships for children with special needs who needed to attend private schools. We continued that in 2013 with opportunity scholarships for others. Public education reform featured Read to Achieve – a major effort designed to make sure that third graders would be taught to read so that by the time they were in fourth grade they could read to learn.
What does Thom Tillis have to do with all of this? For those who know how Raleigh works, nothing passes the House or Senate without the blessing of the Speaker of the House and the President Pro Tem of the Senate. While the Governor has an official veto it can be overridden and has been. The Speaker and the President Pro Tem cannot be overridden in any practical way.
A word about Thom Tillis’ competition. During his term as President of the State Baptist Convention, Mark Harris was an integral part of the referendum campaign to pass the Marriage Amendment. It passed with 61% of the vote. He should be thanked for that effort. But how did the marriage amendment get on the ballot in 2012? We had been trying without success for 8 years. Jim Black and Joe Hackney would not allow a vote. In 2011/2012 there were not 72 Republican members in the House (only 68) and not every Republican was actually in support of putting this on the ballot. It was Speaker Tillis who worked with enough Democrats to put us over the top and worked with some nervous Republicans to make sure that we had the votes and the right legislative strategy and language. Look at the actual tasks of a U.S. Senator. Which role is appropriate to consider in deciding who will effectively defend marriage in Washington?
I respect and thank Dr. Greg Brannon for testifying in favor of the Woman’s Right to Know Act and for reviewing its language along with four other physicians. In general the organized OB/GYN Community is hostile to prolife legislation. But what did Speaker Tillis do for the prolife cause? In 2011 we did not have enough Republicans to pass anything over the veto of Governor Perdue. The Woman’s Right to Know Act passed over her veto without one vote to spare. It was up to the Speaker to make the arrangements necessary to get those final votes from four Democrats and to calm the nerves of several Republicans who would have rather not voted. He also had to clear the legislative hurdles to get it through the House, the Senate and the override of Governor Perdue. Less remarked that session was the end to state funding of Planned Parenthood, the end of state funding of abortion through the State Health Plan and the passage of the Unborn Victims of Violence Act.
In 2013, under the leadership of Speaker Tillis, we were able to pass an end to city and county employee abortions, a prohibition on abortion coverage through policies sold in North Carolina through the federal exchange, an end to sex election abortion, and an expansion of conscience rights for healthcare providers. Speaker Tillis’ knowledge and commitment was indispensible in getting this landmark legislation through the maze. In my considered opinion these measures, taken together, will reduce the abortion rate about 30% in North Carolina. The current decisions of the U.S. Supreme Court do not allow us to stop many more than that. We will make further progress in the next Session. Because of his efforts, Speaker Tillis has been endorsed by the National Right to Life committee.
Back to the beginning. There has been a decided turn toward sound conservative government for the last 3 years. Speaker Tillis has been the chief architect of that turn. Those who attack him for lack of conservative credentials are disconnected from reality. I will vote early for Speaker Tillis on April 24, 2014 and encourage you to join me through the final Election Day on May 6.
Rep. Paul Stam