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Senators offer farewells to departing colleagues

Don Sullivan's voice cracked Wednesday as he recalled eight years as a state senator, beginning with his bicycling from St. Petersburg to Tallahassee.

"Every time I go by a kid riding a bicycle with a bicycle helmet I will think of this Legislature," he said. "Many of you may have disagreed with that decision, but by God, when I came here, no one wore a helmet."

Sullivan is one of 10 senators forced to retire after this session by term limits. For 4{ hours, the Senate put the public's agenda on hold for sentimental sendoffs. Among others leaving: Jack Latvala, R-Palm Harbor, and Ginny Brown-Waite, R-Brooksville.

Latvala recalled when Brown-Waite sided with Democratic Gov. Lawton Chiles, securing a legal assault on Big Tobacco that netted Florida billions of dollars.

"Those few moments basically changed history in the state of Florida because of the courage of one senator to stand up and be counted," Latvala said. "There's once or twice when I wished I'd done that."

Latvala was praised for his passion. "I was afraid this was going to happen," said Sebesta, his voice choking. "To my very best friend in the state of Florida: I love you, pal."

"Term limits are taking 10 of our best," said Sen. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Weston. "I would say term limits are also taking a little bit of heart from us, as well."

Others being pushed out by the term limits rule include Sens. Tom Rossin, D-Royal Palm Beach; Buddy Dyer, D-Orlando; Burt Locke, R-Ormond Beach; Daryl Jones, D-Miami; Betty Holzendorf, D-Jacksonville; and Ron Silver, D-North Miami. Senate President John McKay, R-Bradenton, was honored earlier this week.