Earlier today, in an extraordinary sequence of events, the Virginia Senate passed the House-Senate Conference Committee budget 21-19. Senator Charles Colgan, the chamber's most senior member, and ranking Democrat on the Finance Committee, cracked the heretofore Democrat hegemony to provide the constitutionally mandated 21st vote of a senator required for budget approval. It was a move, despite public whispers, the Senate minority leader, incredibly, said he "didn't see coming" (see Norfolk Virginian-Pilot). Senator Colgan talked about breaking ranks leading up to the special budget session, a session he contributed to necessitating by sticking with his more liberal Democrat caucus mates. Yesterday, he maintained that solidarity to the delight of the Senate minority leader, whose bravado about holding out for his demand de semana was topped only by his bravado about maintaining his former majority, belied the ultimate fissure in his caucus: The bill-killing 20-20 vote ostensibly set the budget process off track for a third time. But today, Senator Colgan saved the General Assembly the time and effort of starting from budgetary scratch again by exercising his right, as one who voted on the prevailing side, to bring the bill back to the floor on a motion to reconsider. However, this very common procedure, used scores of times each session, was not to be that simple.
As it turned out, with the budget seemingly dead again after Tuesday's deadlock, Senator Harry Blevins decided to return home to Chesapeake to see his ailing wife. When word broke of Senator Colgan's decision, and knowing a 20-19 vote had no more effect than a 20-20 count, in a sequential chain reaction seen only in Hollywood suspense and action flicks, Senate leadership had the State Police put out an all points bulletin on Senator Blevins. After locating him and informing him of the urgent need of his attendance, Senator Blevins rushed back to the capitol and cast the deciding vote in favor of the two-year, $85 billion budget. Once the issue was officially settled — after months of political grandstanding and obstructionism by Senate Democrats and its minority leader — State Police helicoptered Senator Blevins home to be with his wife.
Senator Blevins showed a remarkable sense of duty in putting his constituents and all Virginians above a serious family situation. We wish the Blevins family our best and will keep Mrs. Blevins in our prayers and encourage all to do so as well.