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Wednesday, 11 October 2006 00:00

Sen. John Snow earns high marks during first term

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When Sen. John Snow talks about being a senator for the far western counties that he calls home, he becomes animated and impassioned.

 

“I lay awake at night thinking about all the needs in this district and what I need to do to serve the people,” Snow said.

Sometimes they may seem small on the surface, but mean a lot to the communities. Like last week when Snow, D-Murphy, was in Franklin to meet with town officials about a street that was undergoing repair— new sidewalks, curb and gutter, patching — thanks to extra money he won from the Department of Transportation.

After viewing the project and discussing progress with town officials, he sat down on a bench outside a grocery story for an interview. He talked about the bureaucracy a legislator has to wade through to channel extra DOT funds to the far western counties, but he said he was proud to do it.

“We’ve gotten similar money to help roads near schools in Clay County, Graham County, Cherokee County and Jackson County. To do that, you’ve got to take a resolution from the local school board and the county board to the president pro tem of the Senate. Then the Senate president notifies the Board of Transportation at its monthly meeting that this item has his approval and the approval of the local folks,” said Snow.

Not all first-term Senators have the power to pull strings for these projects, but Snow has apparently made the right in roads. Snow was ranked 33 out of 50 senators in his effectivness as a legislator — and the most effective freshman senator — by the N.C. Center for Public Policy.

Snow was such a quick study in learning the ins and outs of the legislative process, he became the first freshman senator in more than a decade to earn a spot as a chairman on the budget committee, heading up the panel that decided how to spend $1.8 billion for the Department of Crime Control and Public Safety. Snow’s work on that budget garnered two additional assistant district attorneys for the western district out of 90 statewide. The committee also approved 17 new District Court judge positions, including one in the western district.

“The governor had recommended seven new judges, and the legislative study commission wanted 10. I argued for more, and I think my experience on the bench helped me convince the legislature to increase the total to 17,” said Snow.

Snow is adept at reeling off numbers, dollar figures and bills he sponsored. Whereas some politicians are big-picture types, he has a knack for the details. Here are just a few of the bills which he said he was proud to be a part of during his first two years in Raleigh:

• Hurricane relief — “If not for the way the western delegation worked together, including Joe Sam Queen (D-Waynesville) and Sen. Martin Nesbitt (D-Buncombe), we wouldn’t have gotten that $240 million.”

• Landslide Mapping — “We got special money for Peeks Creek, and then we designed legislation to get the mapping of slide-prone areas, and some of that is just now being completed.”

• Methamphetamine legislation — “I sponsored meth legislation, and it has helped. Busts of meth labs are down 69 percent since we moved some of those items needed to make it behind the counter. I took some heat from the lobby representing the drug stores, but we needed to do it.”

• Sexual predators — Snow sponsored four pieces of legislation involving sexual predators, including bills that address indecent exposure, violent and sexual video games, the use of the Internet by sexual predators, and a bill that provides money for GPS monitoring for the worst sexual offenders.

The budget that passed this year did many good things for the state, said Snow. Among those were pay raises for teachers and state employees, more money for child care subsidies, a $100 million contribution to the Clean Water Management Trust Fund, and $100 million for the mental health system. It also provided tax credits for small businesses.

While his opponent has criticized the spending in this year’s budget, Snow said the budget was a good one. Republicans in the legislature who had competition in this election were afraid to vote against it, Snow said.

“Republicans criticized it, but those like (Sen. Keith) Presnell, who’s facing a challenge from former Sen. Joe Sam Queen (D-Waynesville) couldn’t defend voting against it,” said Snow. “Those with serious opposition voted for it.”

Snow also prides himself in being independent while at the same time earning the trust of the Democratic leadership. He was one of only two Democrats in the legislature to say that House Speaker Rep. Jim Black should step down while an investigation into his ethics is being conducted.

“I said he should step down during the session because he would be a hindrance to getting things done,” said Snow. That got him press in the state’s largest newspapers, and it also made his job harder when bills he sponsored got to the House.

“Because I was a judge, I believe people who have ethical problems need to answer to them. Period,” said Snow.

As for his opponent in this race, Snow said it seems obvious that someone 36 years old may not have the life experiences that he has.

“My wife and I have been married for 36 years, as long as my opponent has been alive. I have four children and grandchildren, have been a judge for 27 years and a prosecutor for four years. I have a feel for what’s going on in the communities I represent,” said Snow.

“My opponent has no life experiences. He lives in Highlands with his mom and dad and his siblings. He’s never taken care of a baby in the middle of the night, never put children through college. The things I define as life experiences, he hasn’t got any.”

“With my experiences and the job I did this first term, I think the voters of this district will support me for another term,” said Snow. “If those things don’t mean anything, then I’ll go home and take care of my grandkids.”

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