Lt. Gov. Bolling “stranded” in Florence, Italy.
Assures voters he is “working hard” for Virginia
Former Lt.Gov. John Hager jokingly offers to temporarily take his place as General Assembly meets
Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling is stranded in Florence, Italy ahead today’s one-day ‘veto’ legislative session of the Virginia General Assembly.
This was not unexpected for the Lt. Gov. and his staff as the Icelandic volcanic ash cloud covering most of Europe has meant the cancellation of commercial, private and military planes across the Atlantic for the past week. This included President Barack Obama’s Air Force One delegation to Warsaw to attend the State funeral of the Polish President Lech Kaczynski and his wife Maria.
A prescient Lt. Gov. Bolling told a large audience Monday night at the Richmond Convention Center, via a giant screen, that he may have to miss the reconvened session and joked that this was rather a hardship for wife Jean Ann and himself. The black tie audience at the annual gala of the Sorensen Institute for Political Leadership laughed along.
In jest, Bolling complained he was forced to miss the event because of the trip to Italy.
Of the Herculean task before him, he said “While you’re partying hard in Richmond, rest assured, I am working hard on behalf of the people of Virginia.”
His boss, Gov. Robert F. McDonnell joined in the laughter before giving a well received speech on the need for more civility in politics, the theme of the evening’s presentations.
Former Lt. Gov., John Hager is the Chairman of the Institute and was on hand Monday night alongside Executive Director Bob Gibson to introduce some of the speakers which included Richmond Mayor Dwight C. Jones, Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli and Governor McDonnell.
Mr. Hager joked that, in reality, “there are only two real jobs of a Lt. Gov; to break a tie vote in the state Senate and to keep an eye on the health of the sitting Governor.”
Hager added that he had checked his schedule and “was available” Wednesday if needed.
beepwire.com checked with Mr. Hager prior to posting and he said that, whilst it was always possible that the Lt. Gov. might not make it back to Richmond in time, he would be at the annual shad planking in Wakefield on Wednesday and “wouldn’t miss it” despite the strong chance of rain. He added that he had missed the shad planking twice before due to special legislative sessions.
All joking aside, overlooking the $36,000–a-year job with the two aforementioned constitutional duties, would be a mistake. Often the elected office of Lt. Gov. is often a stepping stone to the governor’s office. Just ask former Lt. Gov. Tim Kaine who went on to become Governor.
Bolling has not made any secret of his ambition in the direction of the Executive Mansion.
On March 26, just after the legislative session finished, Bolling formed the committee ‘Friends of Bill Bolling’ establishing a run for Governor in 2013. It is understood he has McDonnell’s support following a deal made before last year’s gubernatorial elections with McDonnell running for the ticket’s top spot and Bolling seeking re-election as Lt. Governor.
Bolling is in Italy participating in an economic development symposium promoting the Commonwealth of Virginia as part of his job description as Chief Jobs Creation Officer. He is responsible for coordinating the state’s economic development programs across numerous state agencies and works with business leaders in Virginia, the United States and overseas to identify ways to improve the state’s economy.
With Bolling absent, Senator Charles J. Colgan (D-Prince William) will preside as president pro tempore of the Senate. Legislators will take up 123 amendments to bills made by Governor during the past session, including the state budget. The Democrats control the 40-member chamber by a 22 to 18 majority.
Mr. Randy Marcus, Chief of Staff to the Lt. Gov., advised that due to flight availability, Mr. Bolling may not be back in the Virginia capitol until Thursday. Over thirty hours were spent surveying a variety of flight options before deciding on a flight to Frankfurt, Germany then to Washington D.C.’s Dulles Airport in Northern Virginia.
The Bollings may return to the Commonwealth able to pronounce the Icelandic volcano – Eyjafjallajokull – that delayed their return to Richmond.
According to Jim Nolan at the Richmond Times Dispatch:
Marcus said he didn’t anticipate any tie votes in the Senate during tomorrow’s (Wednesday) session.
“Hopeful it (Bolling’s absence) will not have a big impact,“ he said.
He said the staff explored numerous alternatives through state channels and federal congressional offices to get Bolling back to the U.S. sooner so he could preside. Lawmakers are scheduled to vote on Gov. Bob McDonnell’s amendments to legislation and the state budget.
A U.S. Navy flight from Naples to Norfolk Naval Air Station did not depart until Friday. And Northern Italian airports were also in the no-fly zone.
Marcus said charter flights ran in the neighborhood of $140,000—not an expense worth incurring for a state that is navigating a $4.5 billion deficit.
Bolling and his wife, Jean Ann, traveled to Florence last Wednesday, where Bolling was scheduled to speak yesterday at a two-day symposium sponsored by the city and James Madison University, which has a satellite campus there.
Marcus said Bolling was invited by JMU in his capacity as McDonnell’s chief job creation officer. His topic was the role of higher education on economic development.
Marcus said the city of Florence paid for the tickets for Bolling and his wife, who stayed in JMU campus housing. Bolling paid for sightseeing trips and his meals. He said the Bollings took a trip to Venice. “There wasn’t any cost to the state,“ said Marcus.
He said he was not concerned that Bolling, a man of large appetites who has fought the battle of the bulge, might overdo it with a few extra days to kill in one of the planet’s gastronomic destinations.
“You have to walk a lot over there,“ he said. “The walking will be good for him, too.“
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