Senate bids farewell to Tallahassee veterans

Feb 27, 2012

The Florida Senate is saying goodbye to some long-time lawmakers. Regan McCarthy reports term limits will keep about a dozen lawmakers from returning to the chamber in the next regular legislative session.

After about 18 years spent working as a lawmaker in Tallahassee Senator Larcenia Bullard, a Democrat from Miami, is bidding the legislature goodbye. In a more than an hour-long speech, Bullard talks about the many years she has spent as a public servant.

“I stepped into a race and I filed in 1984, and I only meant to wet my feet, but you know that song says, but it pulled me in and the water was hot.”

And Bullard talks about the friends she has made here—like Senate President Mike Haridopolos, who is also term limited out this year.

“My president, oh boy, I tell you, the first time I saw you walk into the House of Representatives I thought you were one of the House pages. I really did. And he knows. The first time you spoke on the House floor, I thought to myself ‘why is he speaking on the floor’?” Well, I shortly realized that he was not a page.”

But the mood cooled when Bullard hinted at some “political arm twisting” that left her in tears earlier in the session as lawmakers worked to convince Bullard, who stood against  a measure that would privatize a number of Florida prisons, to change her vote.

“There are some actions that took place this session, that I’ve never experienced in my 20 years of service, but I’ve chosen not to put those in my speech because they’re behind me now.”

Bullard says part of the job is disagreeing, but then you make up and move forward. She says no matter their party Bullard loves her lawmaker colleagues.

“Farewell for now. I love you, I love you, I love you. May God bless you, May God bless the state of Florida.”

And Senator Nan Rich, a Democrat from Sunrise, says that’s an example she hopes to follow.

“You care so much about people, and it doesn’t matter if they’re Republican or Democrat. You care about them and you do love them and I hope that the example you have set here, that example, will be the finest legacy that is left here in that body.”

Senator Mike Fasano, a Republican from Newport Richey, who was a big force behind the opposition the prison privatization measure, gave a shorter speech, thanking his staff and mother. Fasano ends with his catch phrase – God bless you.

“God has blessed me with a great opportunity. And I never could ask for anything more than what I’ve had the opportunity to do over the past 18 years. I thank you very much and Mr. President, God bless you.”

But Senators, like Senator Maria Sachs, a Democrat from Delray, says in a way it is Fasano who has blessed them.

“What it is you give people, my dear friend, is you give them a sense of courage. I’ve seen what’s happened to you in your defense of your principals. Nobody can touch you.”

Sachs says that’s an example that she hopes all lawmakers will strive to follow. Senate President Haridopolos says he is warmed by the comments Senators shared. In total, 12 Senators are slated to be term limited out in 2012.