Politics & Government

The Source: What’s the tab for Sen. Jackson’s snow day legislation?

N.C. Sen. Jeff Jackson, D-Charlotte
N.C. Sen. Jeff Jackson, D-Charlotte OBSERVER FILE PHOTO

What’s the tab for Sen. Jeff Jackson’s legislative snow day?

Democratic Sen. Jeff Jackson of Charlotte made the best of a legislative snow day last month, posting a blizzard of imaginary actions he took to make North Carolina “a national model for progress.”

Jackson’s snow day agenda quickly went viral, becoming a BuzzFeed sensation and landing him on MSNBC’s “Rachel Maddow Show.”

Now a conservative group has added up the cost of Jackson’s imagined initiatives.

“One thing missing from the hubbub … was any pause to consider just how much all this wishful thinking would cost North Carolina taxpayers,” blogged Brian Balfour, director of policy for the Civitas Institute. “Well, that’s why you have us.”

Expanding Medicaid, he wrote, would cost $3.1 billion over 10 years. Reversing cuts to the university system would run $235 million. Making “heavy” investments in wind and solar energy “would likely be tens of millions.”

So would expanding broadband access, improving technology in the judicial system and expanding mental health care for prisoners.

Jackson’s proposals to enact independent redistricting and outlaw “puppy mills” would have minimal state costs, Balfour wrote.

Using the Civitas’ numbers, Jackson said expanding Medicaid to 500,000 people would cost about 1 percent of the state’s $21 billion budget.

“By their numbers, we could reverse all the cuts to the university system, invest heavily in wind and solar, expand broadband access to rural areas, support early childhood education and still cut taxes for the middle class for significantly less than the price of their tax policy,” he said. “I’ll take that deal.” Jim Morrill

Tarte, Ford, go rogue on marriage bill

Last week’s Senate vote on a bill to allow North Carolina’s magistrates and registers of deeds to refuse to participate in same-sex marriages fell predictably along partisan lines.

Only four senators crossed those lines. Two were from Mecklenburg County.

The bill lets officials with “sincerely held religious objections” to recuse themselves from same-sex marriages. Couples could still get married by another official.

Sen. Jeff Tarte was one of two Republicans to vote against the bill sponsored by his party’s leader, President Pro Tem Phil Berger of Eden.

Tarte, the former mayor of Cornelius, explained why in impassioned remarks on the Senate floor. He said he’s personally opposed to same-sex marriage, even supported Amendment One, the 2012 constitutional amendment that blocked it until courts overturned the ban last fall.

“This one bothers me, keeps me up at night,” he told fellow senators. “But we’re talking rule of law,” he said, explaining why he decided to vote against Berger’s bill.

Meanwhile Sen. Joel Ford was one of two Democrats to vote for the bill.

“This was a very tough vote,” Ford told the Observerlater.

“I just really feel strongly that we have to strike a balance between protecting religious rights and the rights of same-sex couples. It’s not a perfect bill but it gives those folks who have serious religious objections some protection (and) it protects same-sex couples.” Jim Morrill

Brawley recognized as friend of transportation

As co-chair of the N.C. House Transportation Committee last session, Rep. Bill Brawley helped shepherd Gov. Pat McCrory’s transportation plan to passage.

For that, Brawley was honored last month with the Contribution to Transportation Award by the North Carolina Section of the Institute of Transportation Engineers.

“He took a stand for change and led the General Assembly’s efforts to change how projects are selected and prioritized,” said Terry Snow, who chairs the group’s administrative council. “We thank him for his courage and leadership.” Jim Morrill

N.C. lobbyist bundling for Jeb Bush

When Republican Jeb Bush gathers his top fundraisers in Miami in April, at least one North Carolinian will be there.

Theresa Kostrzewa, a Raleigh lobbyist, already has raised more than $150,000 for the former Florida governor. She’ll be among other so-called bundlers who, according to a campaign memo, have “met or exceeded” their fundraising targets.

Kostrzewa says she thinks Bush can carry North Carolina, which could be a major delegate prize after moving up its 2016 primary.

A former Mitt Romney supporter, Kostrzewa has found herself in the news since Romney took himself out of next year’s race. Last month, for instance, she told the Washington Post that North Carolina interest in New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was “fleeting.”

“For people in North Carolina, it’s like going on a date with the high school football star and you’re wowed, but then it’s not deep enough to form an attachment,” she told the Post. “Then when he’s been stumbling, what little attachment there was has fallen away.” Jim Morrill