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John Bradford: Hitting the ground running

John Bradford: Hitting the ground running

John Bradford: Hitting the ground running

North Carolina Rep. John Bradford, a freshman Republican legislator, has hit the ground running in Raleigh. The energetic former Town Commissioner has sponsored more than a dozen bills in just three months in the state capitol. He has big shoes to fill: He was elected to fill the seat vacated by one of the most successful politicians in North Carolina history, former NC Speaker of the House Thom Tillis, also a former town commissioner. Before Tillis, of course, Cornelius was represented in Raleigh by Republican John Rhodes, who managed to earn the title of “least effective” legislator.

No other than NC Sen. Jeff Tarte, the former mayor of Cornelius, says Bradford is a natural legislator.
“He is earning the respect of his fellow legislators through his work ethic and committee work. John has been an absolute pleasure to collaborate with on key pieces of legislation. I feel like I am watching a younger version of Thom Tillis. It would not surprise me to see John follow a similar political path of responsibilities,” Tarte said.

Bradford says he is thrilled to be in Raleigh. He still owns Park Avenue Properties, a real estate management business on West Catawba, and with his wife, Shea, is raising four children. He fielded questions from Cornelius Today’s editor, Dave Yochum, on the first 90 days juggling legislating, business and family.

Grade yourself on how you’ve done.

Bradford: In my first 90 days I have been the primary sponsor of 17 House bills and I have co-sponsored 34 House bills. One of my bills, “Lineman Appreciation Day in NC” was signed into law by the Governor. Many of the bills I am supporting are bi-partisan which demonstrates my willingness to work across party lines. As the Freshman Majority Whip I meet with the Majority Leadership Team every week offering my insight and perspective on various issues. I serve on seven committees and am the Vice Chairman of one committee. I was one of two people the Speaker of the House asked to represent NC at a Tax Policy Academy to be held in Chicago later this session. I was selected to serve a two-year term on a special House Finance Subcommittee on Annexation and Deannexation. Since session began I have taught myself about the history of our State Capitol so I could give private tours. Every week I take the NC House Pages and my constituents, if any, on a private Capitol tour. In District 98 I have already hosted one Coffee Chat in conjunction with two local Town officials and a second Coffee Chat is scheduled for May 4th. While I won’t grade myself I can share that I love this role and am giving it everything I have.

What are some of the key differences in governance in the Legislature vs. the Town Commission?

Bradford: There are 120 NC House members and, to date, 899 bills have already been filed. It’s impossible to speak on every single issue. I have learned to focus on the areas where I believe I can add the most value and then speak at the appropriate times. After serving on the Town Board with just five commissioners it was very easy to speak on every issue. In Raleigh there are party issues, both Democrat and Republican, which we deal with in party caucus meetings. I did not experience party-related issues while serving on a non-partisan Town Board even though commissioners have a specific party affiliation.

What are the top three pieces of legislation coming up and what is your position on them?

Bradford: House Bill 117 – NC Competes Act. This is a job growth and economic incentives bill that uses a reimbursement approach vs. giving away upfront credits. This bill gives the Governor access to $45 million to help recruit new businesses and expand existing businesses. An example might be to use a portion of this money to recruit a major automotive manufacturer. I co-sponsored the bill and voted for it. The Senate has the bill for consideration.

Senate Bill 20 – Motor Fuels Tax Rate. This bill originally passed in the Senate and the House did not agree with certain parts of the bill. The House and Senate worked very well together and came up with a compromise solution to lower the gas tax rate by 1.5 cents while also changing the tax rate formula to be less dependent on fluctuating oil prices and base it on a consumer pricing index. This is still not the long-term solution we need but I ultimately supported this bill because the current formula would have created financial hardships on the towns in District 98 as well as creating major issues with on-going road maintenance.

House Bill 152 – New Historic Preservation Tax Credits. This bill offers tax incentives to those making capital investments and property improvements to historic buildings. I co-sponsored this bill and it has passed the House. The Senate has the bill for consideration.

What are two things about the NC House that you did not know, or that surprised you?

Bradford: I did not know the formality of session. The rules in the NC House follow Mason’s Manual of Legislative Procedure and not Robert’s Rule of Order. In order to ask a question of another member you would first have to ask the Speaker if the other member will yield for a question. The Speaker asks the other member if he/she will yield for a question. In most cases the member yields but I have seen a few instances when he/she is not finished with their talking points and will say “no” which means you would have to sit down without asking your question.

I am delightfully surprised how accessible everyone is such as the Governor and Lieutenant Governor. I see them more frequently than I imagined and I have been to both of their houses several times. Senators and House members seem to get along very well which is contradictory to what I read in the media before my election. It’s very refreshing and no one is intimidating – even to a freshman.

We cannot eat or drink at our desks until after the first hour of session passes. We have water in the back in small solo cups if you get thirsty. I keep almonds in my desk which is helpful when session runs three-plus hours.

How much money do you have in your campaign account for 2016?

Bradford: I am in the process of raising money and am not certain of my current balance. I believe I will have over $100,000 on-hand by 2016.

How is your family? How do you juggle family and Raleigh?

Bradford: My family seems to be enjoying the experience. My wife often listens to the sessions over the internet so she can stay engaged in the process. I have to leave town every Monday by noon and I usually do not get home until late Thursday evenings. My schedule is the same every week until the end of July. I definitely miss the family and my dog. My kids use “facetime” to say goodnight which helps with the long distance and makes me smile.