WASHINGTON, D.C. – In 2019, Senator Thom Tillis continued to work on behalf of North Carolinians and produced results. Tillis was successful in getting a number of his priorities codified into law, including protecting veterans and holding VA executives accountable, securing more than a billion dollars in federal funds to help North Carolinians affected by natural disasters, and reforming Department of Defense personnel policies, including improved education and health care benefits for servicemembers and their families. Additionally, Tillis led in offering solutions to problems facing North Carolina, including legislation to stop dangerous sanctuary city policies and introducing reforms to modernize and overhaul the federal disaster assistance program to bring relief to North Carolinians sooner.
A look back at 25 of Tillis’ accomplishments and initiatives in 2019:
As Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Personnel, Senator Tillis led the effort to pass an across the board 3.1% pay raise for our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines. Additionally, Senator Tillis worked to secure a number of reforms in the FY2020 NDAA to take meaningful steps to address the serious issues with the Military Housing Privatization Initiative (MHPI). Senator Tillis’ Personnel Subcommittee also made efforts to address military sexual assault prevention and response, support military spouse employment, and expand health care for military members and their families.
Senator Tillis has used his position on the Armed Services Committee to bring back billions of dollars for North Carolina’s military installations, including securing $2.2 billion for the state in a funding bill passed earlier this month.
In 2019, Senator Tillis introduced two bills aimed at putting an end to dangerous sanctuary policies being implemented in several North Carolina counties.
In July, Tillis introduced the Justice for Victims of Sanctuary Cities Act, legislation that holds sanctuary jurisdictions accountable for failing to comply with lawful detainer and release notification requests made by federal authorities and jeopardizing public safety. The legislation creates a private right of civil action for the victims of sanctuary jurisdictions, allowing them to bring an action for compensatory damages against the sanctuary jurisdiction as a result of a violent crime committed by an illegal immigrant.
In October, Tillis introduced the Immigration Detainer Enforcement Act. The bill clarifies the DHS’ detainer authority, clearly establishes the authority of states and localities to maintain custody in cases in which a detainer has been issued, and incentivizes cooperation between law enforcement agencies and DHS through the reimbursement of certain detention, technology, and litigation-related costs.
Over the past three years, North Carolina has been devastated by three hurricanes that have impacted thousands of families. While Senator Tillis has worked tirelessly to deliver much-needed federal assistance to North Carolina, the state was repeatedly labeled a “slow-spender” by the federal government, which kept funds from being distributed to local communities in a timely manner and hurt North Carolina’s case to secure federal funds to go towards disaster recovery. In response, Senator Tillis introduced legislation that cuts red tape at the federal and state levels in order to bring federal disaster relief to North Carolina families and local communities sooner. Senator Tillis will continue to push for reforms to federal disaster assistance programs.
A member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Tillis has played a vital role in confirming President Trump’s well-qualified judges, bringing the total to more than 170 federal judges confirmed.
In 2019, Tillis played a key role in recommending and helping to confirm several North Carolina federal judges, including Judge Allison Jones Rushing of the Fourth Circuit, Judge Ken Bell of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of N.C., and Judge Richard Myers II of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of N.C., whose confirmation ended the longest federal judicial vacancy in the nation.
Senator Tillis successfully advocated on behalf of North Carolina stakeholders, helping secure six grants totaling more than $160 million dollars, which include:
- $34,898,895 to the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) to make rail upgrades and improvements, add capacity, and increase fluidity of the CSX freight intermodal network from Charlotte to Wilmington.
- $2,000,000 to the City of Wilmington to study realigning the current rail system around downtown instead of through downtown.
- $74,234,588 to the City of Charlotte for the CATS Blue Line Extension.
- $22,500,000 to the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) to widen 27 miles of I-95 to eight lanes between Lumberton and Fayetteville. This will make the area more resilient to major storms like Hurricanes Matthew and Florence by raising two bridges near Lumberton, and several low-lying parts of the road susceptible to flooding. It also includes state-of-the-art flood monitoring technology in order to manage evacuation routes in real time.
- $15,000,000 to the City of Greenville for a multimodal improvement project to enhance the city’s vehicle, pedestrian, and bicycle infrastructure. The project will include roadway realignment and resurfacing, as well as the extension of an existing greenway space, construction of a multi-use path, and conversion of an abandoned rail.
- $13,600,000 to the Town of Mooresville for the construction of a new 1.7-mile roadway from I-77 to NC-115/Mecklenburg Highway. The new road will better connect Mooresville to the Lowe’s Corporate Campus and the Department of Defense (DOD) Contractor Technologies.
In July, President Trump signed Senator Tillis’ LEGION Act into law at the official bill signing in the Oval Office that will extend eligibility for American Legion membership to honorably discharged veterans who served since World War II. Senator Tillis introduced the legislation with Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ). Currently, only veterans who served during periods of declared hostilities are able to join the American Legion. The bipartisan LEGION Act is supported by the American Legion and ensures the thousands of brave American veterans who fought for our country during unrecognized times of war are able to enjoy the full benefits of membership in the American Legion.
Bipartisan legislation introduced by Senators Tillis and Sinema that safeguard veterans from predatory loan practices and helps them more easily access their earned homeowner benefits was signed into law in July.
The legislation is a continuation of Senator Tillis’ bipartisan leadership in protecting veterans from predatory lenders. In 2018, Senator Tillis’ Protecting Veterans from Predatory Lending was codified into law, which ensures veterans can continue to easily use their VA home loan guarantee to refinance their mortgages and allows veteran homeowners to save money, pay off their mortgages, and avoid falling prey to predatory lenders.
In August, President Trump signed four bills Senator Tillis co-sponsored into law, which provide economic relief for small businesses, family farmers, National Guard and Reservists, and veterans in need.
- The Honoring American Veterans in Extreme Need (HAVEN) Act – bipartisan legislation co-sponsored by Senator Tillis to protect the economic security and well-being of veterans and their families who rely on disability benefits and may be experiencing financial hardship.
- The Family Farmer Relief Act of 2019 - bipartisan legislation co-sponsored by Senator Tillis to help family farms reorganize after falling on hard times.
- The Small Business Reorganization Act (SBRA) -bipartisan legislation co-sponsored by Senator Tillis that streamlines existing bankruptcy procedures and provides new tools to improve a small business’ ability to restructure.
- The National Guard and Reservist Debt Relief Extension Act of 2019 - bipartisan legislation co-sponsored by Senator Tillis that will reauthorize relief for qualifying members of the National Guard and Reserves experiencing financial hardship.
In 2019, Senator Tillis worked to re-instate the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Intellectual Property and has worked across the aisle to reform and modernize our patent system and promote American innovation and protect our technology from countries like China.
Since taking office, Senator Tillis has been an advocate for providing justice for the victims of Camp Lejeune toxic contamination, working with Senator Burr to advance bipartisan legislation. In May, Senators Tillis and Burr introduced The Janey Ensminger Act of 2019 to ensure individuals with diseases scientifically linked to toxic chemical exposure at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina receive proper medical care from the Veterans Administration (VA). The bill is named for Janey Ensminger, daughter of Master Sergeant Jerry Ensminger, who was born at Camp Lejeune and died as a result of exposure to toxic chemicals.
In response to the onslaught of robocalls received by North Carolinians, Senator Tillis co-sponsored bipartisan legislation that was signed into law that gives regulators more time to find scammers, increases civil forfeiture penalties for those caught, promotes call authentication and blocking adoption, and brings relevant federal agencies and state attorneys general together to address impediments to criminal prosecution of robocallers who intentionally flout laws.
With 15,000 untested rape-kits in North Carolina alone, the largest backlog in the country, Senator Tillis co-sponsored bipartisan legislation that would reauthorize the Debbie Smith Act and give much-needed resources to state and local law enforcement agencies to complete forensic analysis of crime scenes and untested rape kits. President Trump signed the legislation into law this week.
Senator Tillis secured passage of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program that protects North Carolina’s economy and allows major events like the 2020 RNC Convention in Charlotte and American businesses to be protected and continue to create jobs.
The Terrorism Risk Insurance Program was established in response to the scarcity of affordable insurance coverage for terrorism risk in the wake of the attacks on September 11, 2001. Since then, the program has improved the availability and affordability of terrorism risk insurance coverage in the marketplace through a public/private partnership that allows the federal government and the insurance industry to share losses in the event of a major terrorist attack. The program ensures that adequate resources are available for businesses to recover and rebuild if they are the victims of a terrorist attack. Under TRIA, all property and casualty insurers in the U.S. are required to make terrorism coverage available. Without the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program, which is scheduled to expire at the end of 2020, major building projects and other key events could be halted or delayed, causing lost jobs and economic activity.
As co-chair of the Senate Human Rights Caucus, Senator Tillis has worked across the aisle to promote America’s leadership role in protecting and advancing human rights. In January 2019, bipartisan legislation co-sponsored by Senator Tillis to bolster U.S. government efforts to prevent genocide and other human rights atrocities around the world was signed into law by President Trump. The legislation, named in honor of the courageous, inspiring Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel, strengthens the U.S. government’s capability to prevent, mitigate, and respond to genocide and other mass atrocities wherever they may occur.
Bipartisan legislation co-sponsored by Senator Tillis to reauthorize the Victims of Child Abuse Act (VOCAA), which provides funding for Children’s Advocacy Centers that serve child victims and help law enforcement hold perpetrators accountable, was signed into law by President Trump in January 2019.
As the former caregiver of a loved one with Alzheimer’s Disease, Senator Tillis has worked across the aisle to support the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) goal of preventing and effectively treating Alzheimer’s by 2025.
Bipartisan legislation co-sponsored by Senator Tillis and signed into law will for the first time create a public health infrastructure across the country to combat Alzheimer’s disease and preserve brain health. The Building Our Largest Dementia (BOLD) Infrastructure for Alzheimer’s Act will apply a public health approach to reduce risk, detect early symptoms, advance care, improve data, and ultimately change the trajectory of this devastating disease. Headed by the Centers for Disease and Prevention (CDC), it will authorize $20 million annually over the next five years.
President Trump signed into law bipartisan legislation co-introduced by Senator Tillis to ensure the VA reimburses veterans for missed or underpaid GI Bill housing benefits. The Forever GI Bill Housing Payment Fulfillment Act was introduced to address the VA’s failure to fully comply with updated Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH) rates set by the Forever GI Bill.
Senator Tillis and Congressman Rouzer successfully pushed their bill to designate “American World War II Heritage Cities” to be codified into law. The Tillis-Rouzer provision directs the Secretary of Interior to annually designate at least one city in the United States as an “American World War II Heritage City,” into law. Wilmington, North Carolina is likely to be among the first cities to receive the honor.
The American World War II Heritage City designations are based on specific criteria, including the contributions a city made toward the efforts to secure America’s victory in the European and the Pacific theaters during World War II, as well as the efforts made by cities to preserve the history of the their World War II contributions through the preservation of museums and organizations, restoration of facilities that helped with the war effort, and a city’s overall recognition of World War II veterans.
During World War II, Wilmington was the home of the North Carolina Shipbuilding Company. The shipyard was created as part of the U.S. government's Emergency Shipbuilding Program. Workers built 243 ships in Wilmington during the five years the company operated.
Senator Tillis continued to work with communities in North Carolina to receive USDA grants and expand rural broadband for residents.
Earlier this year, Senator Tillis hosted a roundtable at Vance-Granville Community College to talk about the need for rural broadband access and find ways the federal and state government can work together to reach more North Carolinians.
Responding to serious concerns over PFAS contamination in the Cape Fear River, Senator Tillis has led efforts to designate PFAS as a hazardous substance by the EPA. Earlier this year, Senator Tillis co-sponsored bipartisan legislation that would require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) within one year of enactment to declare PFAS as hazardous substances eligible for cleanup funds under the EPA Superfund law, and also enable a requirement that polluters undertake or pay for remediation.
To protect the tax dollars of hardworking Americans, Senator Tillis introduced bipartisan legislation to close an existing loophole that would effectively place salary caps for the CEOs of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The bill was introduced after the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) Inspector General reported the FHFA has allowed compensation for executives at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to expand well beyond Congressionally-mandated limits for chief executive compensation at both institutions by separating the chief executive and president role at those agencies, transferring duties of the chief executive officer to the president, and raising the president’s salary by millions. Senator Tillis’ Respect the Caps Act closes this loophole.
Senator Tillis believes in patient-centered health care that delivers the choices they want, the affordability and protections they need, and the quality they deserve, which is why he introduced the Protect Act. Tillis’ legislation protects Americans with pre-existing conditions, ensuring that they have the peace of mind knowing that they and their loved ones will never be denied health care coverage or be charged more because of a pre-existing condition.
To combat rising health care costs, Senator Tillis co-introduced legislation to lower prescription drug prices, bring greater transparency to the prescription drug industry, and encourage American ingenuity in the development of new treatments and cures.
In September, Senator Tillis and a group of senators took bipartisan action to strengthen school safety for students across the country. The senators introduced the School Safety Clearinghouse Act, which would establish a federally-funded and housed information clearinghouse detailing best practices for school security and design.
In October, Senator Tillis and a group of his colleagues introduced the Restoring, Enhancing, Strengthening, and promoting our Nation’s Safety Efforts (RESPONSE) Act in an effort to reduce mass violence and make communities safer. The legislation gives new tools to law enforcement, expands resources for mental health treatment, and bolsters school safety for students and teachers through incentives and training.