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Cornelius News

Tillis offers a legislative outlook, more at LKN Chamber event

US Sen. Thom Tillis, R-NC, right, sitting with Jeff Tarte, briefed Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce members on legislative issues and more. Photo | TL Bernthal

Feb. 1. By TL Bernthal. US Sen. Thom Tillis warmed up the audience for the Lake Norman Chamber’s Focus Friday by saying he never talks longer than 10 minutes in introductory remarks.

Tillis likes to keep speeches to 700 words, following the example of President Abraham Lincoln in his second inaugural address.

With that as the background, former state Sen. Jeff Tarte, the chamber’s legislative expert, set Tillis loose on a legislative update on Jan. 27.

The quick take

With a divided House, bi-partisanship efforts are important. “Play the hand you’re dealt until you get the hand to win,” Tillis said.

The elephant in the room is the debt ceiling. “Debt has to come under control,” but that doesn’t mean cutting the military / defense budget, for example; it means being efficient.

If the debt ceiling crisis isn’t resolved here, the ripples will be global. “If we sneeze here, the rest of the world will catch a cold,” Tillis said

Regarding Ukraine, Tillis said the US population should be prepared to support Ukraine through the long term as Russian President Vladimir Putin tries to re-build the Russian empire.

Support takes time and training. To deliver tanks, for example, you have to take into account supply lines, delivery, personnel carriers, support personnel and more.


A timesaver: Check out ChatGPT, the chatbot launched by OpenAI in November that can write emails and essays, poetry, answer questions, or generate lines of code based on a prompt.

How to get funding: Every local and state leader wants it to help pay for important projects such as roads, infrastructure and affordable housing. Tillis says think regionally, show community support and hone proposals to fit into federal regulations. You may not get exactly what you want when you want it, but you get something.

The opposition needs to understand, Tillis said, there are consequences to what some may call compromise and others think of as being smart.

As an example of that, Tillis defended his position supporting high-occupancy toll lanes on I-77 despite pushback from many in Lake Norman. Without the HOT lanes, new lanes on I-77 might not be place now, a decade later, he said.

Cornelius Mayor Woody Washam told Tillis there’s a crisis with the lack of affordable and work-force housing in town, citing an apartment renter whose rent went up 36 percent.

Tillis said towns in each county need to come up with a baseline cost for affordable housing, and then leaders need to put baseline minimum codes and ordinances in place to support that. When applying for federal money, make sure the money goes to giving people actual housing, not to support regulations.

Constituent service: Local and state elected leaders should reach out to his Senate office when they get a constituent question or problem they can’t tackle on their own or run into roadblocks. His office can act as a constituent resource service that may help.

For newcomers
Tillis began his political career in 2002 in Cornelius, as he pushed for a local bike trail and was elected to the town’s park board. He ran for town commissioner in 2003 and tied for second place.

Tillis, a Republican, served on the town board until his election to the North Carolina House of Representatives, where he served from 2007 to 2015, and as its speaker from 2011 to 2015. Tillis was elected to the Senate in 2014 and re-elected in 2020.

Tillis has lived with his family — wife Susan and two children — in Lake Norman since 1998, and dotes on his two granddaughters, with a third grandchild expected this summer.

A presidential run
No, Tillis says. He’ll never seek an office that requires a security detail. Tillis said he enjoys family time and a chance to relax on Lake Norman too much to seek an office higher than he holds now. He takes his paddleboat out, listens to music, gauges the water flow and breeze on the lake that will let him relax as he drifts through the cove back to his home in Huntersville. Could you imagine doing that with a Secret Service boat full of agents and a helicopter whirring overhead? Tillis can’t.

at 700 words

To view the event in its entirety, click here.