General Assembly's Hollywood-Like Thriller Had Happy EndingMay 02, 2012
In the tying-up-loose-ends-category, there was a happy conclusion to the Hollywood-like thriller that played out two weeks ago in order to get a budget passed by the Senate. With Senate Democrats blocking every attempt to reach an agreement with specious demands that ended the General Assembly without a budget, and with prospects not better during an extra taxpayer funded special session for work that should've been completed in March not showing any better prospects because of Democrat obstructionism preposterous demands, all seemed doomed. But Senator Charles Colgan, a Prince William Democrat and senior member of the chamber, who previously said he would vote for the budget only to keep party hegemony during the special session's first vote, told the GOP leadership he would throw in with them. The problem was that between his false start and the time of day that he informed Majority Leader Tommy Norment that he was ready to join Republicans to provide the 21st vote necessary to pass the budget, Senator Harry Blevins, a Chesapeake Republican, was in his car, 20 miles south of Richmond on I-95, near Petersburg, getting home as quick as possible. Seeing no imminent breakthrough — and who could blame him? — he left the capital immediately on the coincidental word that his wife of more than 50 years was experiencing complications in the hospital. She was not responding to medication and "doctors were talking about using defibrillation paddles to jolt her heart back into rhythm," as reported by The Washington Post's Laura Vozzella.
Attempts to reach him by phone and text were useless as Senator Blevins does not pick up his phone while driving and did not want to delay his return to his wife by pulling over. But the constant buzzing got the best of his interest and he answered the call — literally. When he was told that this time they had Senator Colgan's vote, for sure, he reversed course back to the capitol. In the meantime, the Senate leadership through the governor's office asked the State Police to put out an all points bulletin on his Nissan Altima. Capitol Police were instructed to let him pull right up to Mr. Jefferson's temple — where lawmakers used to park in designated spots along the service road around the building in days before tightened security — so he could get to the floor as quick as possible.
Getting him home, though was another matter. Likely at Senate leadership's request, the governor's office authorized the use of a State Police helicopter, but not before Virginia Beach Republican Delegate Barry Knight, a licensed pilot who owns his own bird, was approached and agreed to fly Senator Blevins home (Norfolk Virginian-Pilot). He boarded the state chopper two blocks from the capitol at VCU's Medical College of Virginia helipad and landed at the helipad of the Chesapeake hospital (AP via Washington Post) within an hour of the vote. A staffer of Senator Jeff McWaters (R-Virginia Beach) drove the Altima back to Chesapeake. It was perfect, though impromptu, logistical harmony. Too bad less hectic legislative scenarios can't play out half as efficiently.
With all the unusual acrimony in the normally staid Senate through the regular and special sessions, there seemed to be unanimity over this. Even the very partisan Northern Virginia liberal Senator Janet Howell thought the special lift was appropriate (even though left wing activists ranted in the Post's comment section). Legislators do not get transportation to their districts from the State Police, but the extraordinary circumstance and the unusual sacrifice — and the close calls of the simultaneous situations Senator Blevins found himself in — made for the noteworthy exception.
Even with all the frantic twists and turns, there was another, more important componen to the story, to make it a complete triumph: Mrs. Blevins also reversed course by eventually responding positively to her medication and did not need defibrillation jolts. She was discharged two days later. It's not only in Hollywood where the impossible turns out to be possible and have a happy ending. It even happens at the General Assembly, where more than one movie has been filmed in recent months (and years). We're happy for Senator and Mrs. Blevins and continue to keep them in our prayers.