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We'll miss Florida Senate's two spunky voices: Fasano and Dockery

We've been lucky these last 10 years.

During a time when the state Senate veered further and further to the right, when it came more under the control of Republican leaders who fell more under the spell of rich business interests, Hernando County's senators were Paula Dockery of Lakeland and Mike Fasano of New Port Richey.

Though election results came in late Tuesday night, we've known for a long time what the day meant for these two independent-minded Republicans: Due to term limits, it was their last day in office, though Fasano looked to be a lock to win a new House of Representatives seat in Pasco County.

Our new senator, after redistricting — Wilton Simpson of Dade City — was poised to slide into office without opposition and with the full support of the party establishment that Fasano and Dockery made a habit of bucking.

Both of them would like that description. And they don't mind being labeled as independent Republicans. But please don't call them moderate, a Republican slur for anyone who budges from the far right.

Maybe they're correct, if you put them on a traditional political spectrum. But if the rush to satisfy big donors is extreme, and if this is what's responsible for making the Republican Party more that way, then the people trying to apply the brakes are moderates.

First, an example of how the politics have shifted:

In 2005, Dockery was able to pass a comprehensive bill that environmentalists praised for protecting water supplies and that developers liked because it tried to ensure a plentiful future supply.

Such even-handed legislation couldn't even be introduced in the Tallahassee of recent vintage, where Fasano's and Dockery's work has been more about stopping bad bills than passing good ones.

"You would like to be playing offense," Fasano said. "But in the past few years, I had to play defense for the home-owner, for the ratepayer, for the little guy and gal."

The two senators successfully fought the turnover of the state prison system to private companies in this year's session. They weren't able to stop another term-limited senator, JD Alexander, from splitting the former University of South Florida Polytechnic in Lakeland off as its own university, but nobody in the Legislature tried harder.

Two years ago, when the Senate booted two members off the state Public Service Commission as punishment for blocking rate increases for power companies, Dockery and Fasano cast dissenting votes.

Whenever state-run Citizens Property Insurance Corp. unveiled a new scheme to put the squeeze on policyholders, Fasano was among the first to object.

Dockery, meanwhile, became known for ethics reform — for her many futile efforts to cut the rot out of the current system.

More money than ever goes through funds controlled by the leaders of the party and the Legislature, giving them the power to choose candidates and make sure they win elections, she said.

And that makes for lawmakers who are highly dependent and highly unlikely to speak out.

Simpson looks to be a product of this system, though we won't know for sure until he starts casting votes.

Likewise, we can't say for sure what will happen in Tallahassee.

On the one hand, Fasano said, the incoming leadership of the Senate seems more reasonable than outgoing president Mike Haridopolos and the Budget Committee chairman, Alexander. (How could it not be?)

On the other hand, think of the Senate without Fasano, Dockery and a few others who are independent, moderate and, unfortunately, gone.

We'll miss Florida Senate's two spunky voices: Fasano and Dockery 11/06/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 6, 2012 8:21pm]
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