Raleigh, N.C. — On what could be Speaker Thom Tillis' last day on the dais as the House adjourned for the year, the Cornelius Republican talked to reporters about the victories and regrets of his four-year tenure at the head of the House and about his campaign for U.S. Senate.
Among the highlights as speaker, Tillis listed the eugenics bill he helped shepherd past objections from his own caucus. He called the coal ash compromise passed Wednesday "historic" legislation that could become a model for other states. He also cited the number of important bills, including medical malpractice reform and veto overrides, that had some Democratic votes as well as Republican.
"It took a lot of work, and we would not have made that progress if we hadn't had support from both sides of the aisle," he said. "We've done a lot with Democrats and Republicans working together. That's what I'm most proud of."
Asked which bill he most regrets not being able to push through, he said it's the proposal to require insurance to cover applied behavioral analysis for children with autism, though he expressed optimism it could resurface next session.
Tillis said he's confident his legislative record will help his campaign for U.S. Senate against Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan this fall.
He said his record includes a rapidly dropping unemployment rate, lower taxes, regulatory reform and the coal ash bill, as well as salary increases for teachers this year.
"We've got a very positive record to run on. We've got a great statement we've made about education. You could always do more, but leaving on a high note with education funding, with teacher pay raises – the more that they learn about it, I think, the more they're going to like it," he said. "In short, it's just fulfillment of promises that we made."
Tillis added that the steep budget cuts of 2011 and 2012 were "tough decisions" that were necessary to get the state back on a firm fiscal footing and guarantee the security of safety net programs like Medicaid.
"I'm very proud of all that," he said. "I think it's something we can run on, and I think it'll resonate with people."