LOCAL NE.WS: Meet the candidate: Hill talks environment, education, experience, and record

The Local Ne.ws profiles Brad Hill in its Meet the Candidate series.

After 20 years in the job, state Rep. Bradford “Brad” Hill has a lot to talk about when it comes to his record.

First elected as a state representative in 1998, the Republican candidate said, “It’s a job I love. I think my experience gives me opportunities to deliver more to my district, and I think my record shows that.”

Hill is now assistant minority leader in the house of representatives. He is seeking reelection on November 6, when he faces Democratic challenger Allison Gustavson.

He has run unopposed in either the Republican primaries or the general election since 2008, when he beat Democrat Donald Bullimer 15,779-6,390.

Hill pointed to a number of areas he has worked on over the years: education, infrastructure, the environment, the opioid crisis.

But he also noted he started his life — as did Gov. Charlie Baker and Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito — as a selectman, and said that experience prepared him for full-time politics.

Environment
Hill took issue with claims he has failed to protect the environment adequately. In addition to working on green crabs, open space, and grants, Hill added he is a survivor of environmental cancer.

That experience has made him even more aware of environmental issues, he asserted.

Hill said he worked on protection of Sagamore Hill in Ipswich and Hamilton, the Donibristle Farm in Topsfield, and a section of Willowdale State Forest.

He is particularly pleased with the $200,000 green-crab program he worked on. “The trapping has been such a success that we are starting to see much of the marsh grass come back,” he said.

Education
“Education continues to be something that people are talking about,” he said.

Hill said his record was clear that he has offered statehouse bills and amendments to make the distribution of education funds more equitable.

One project, started under Gov. Deval Patrick’s administration, saw Hill and state Sen. Bruce Tarr (R-Gloucester) offered an amendment to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) budget to report back on how to make the funding formula more equitable.

The resulting report spawned a bipartisan partnership between Hill and Democrats that ultimately changed funding models, he said.

Hill “worked with colleagues on both sides of the aisle. This is a non-partisan issue.”

Hill said he also ensured “circuit breaker” and “pothole” special-education budgets were fully funded.

Circuit-breaker funding is provided by the state to reimburse districts for special education costs above a certain threshold. The DESE website explains the formula here.

Pothole funding is when districts face emergency increases in special education, such as when a new student moves in mid-year. “Ipswich got two such grants in my time as their representative,” Hill said.

The 4th Essex District — Ipswich, Hamilton, Wenham, Manchester, Topsfield, and Rowley — has regional schools in every town except Ipswich, Hill noted.

At the statehouse, he has worked over the years to increase the line-item funding for regional school transportation, he said.

“This year we are funding it at the highest level” — 85-percent reimbursement — he added.

“Education has always been a priority of mine, and I have worked relentlessly with leaders of the house and superintendents and school committees to ensure they have received their funding,” he said.

“For anyone to say I have not been a champion of public funding for education is wrong,” he said.

Constituency services
“My top priority has always been constituency service,” Hill said, adding, “I want to make sure they know that when they call my office, they get the help they deserve.”

Another area the representative concentrates on is providing services to seniors and veterans.

Hill said he has worked on getting grants for local councils on aging as well as supported different acts and bills that support returning veterans.

Infrastructure
Hill said a large part of his job has been helping local communities get funding for their infrastructure projects.

“We know in Ipswich that our water is in need of help,” he said. In Manchester, he helped the town get $500,000 for harbor dredging, and, in Topsfield, he got the town $1 million to repave Route 97, he said.

All told, Hill took credit for delivering over $50 million in such grants to the six towns in the district.

On the opioid crisis, Hill said, “This is an issue I have been fighting along with Gov. Baker on for four years.”

Hill said he has organized forums for each of the high schools in the district. Those were designed to educate parents and faculty on “the harm the first use of that opioid can cause.”

Hill has worked on making beds for treatment available while also working to stiffen penalties, particularly for drug dealers who spike heroin or even marijuana with fentanyl or carfentanil, two particularly potent opioids.

He said the overdose deaths caused in the district this year have been from the fentanyl drugs.

As a Republican in a Democrat-dominated Massachusetts House of Representatives, Hill noted he frequently has to work across the aisle on constituency issues.

He worked with Democrats on the Junior Operators Bill that he credited with fewer kids in crashes and fewer incidents of speeding among young drivers.

He also authored Melissa’s Law, which removes the possibility of parole for repeat offenders.

But, on the other hand, he said he pushed for the cutoff age for youth offenders to be increased from 17 to 18.

That gives the kids a chance to earn their GEDs or get on drug programs in youth facilities. Otherwise, 17-year-olds would find themselves in adult prison, Hill said.

“I’m here to serve the Fourth Essex District in a non-partisan way and as a public service,” he said.

 

SOURCE: https://thelocalne.ws/2018/09/25/brad-hill-interview/