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Larcenia Bullard’

Senate celebrates ‘bigger than life’ late Larcenia Bullard

Wednesday, March 27th, 2013 by Dara Kam

The Florida Senate remembered their colleague Larcenia Bullard, a long-time lawmaker who died March 16, with what Democratic Leader Chris Smith called a celebration instead of a memorial service in homage to a woman whose sense of humor and distinctive style drew praise from members of both parties.

The hour-and-a-half long event in the Senate chamber concluded with video excerpts from her farewell speech delivered last year after Bullard left office due to term limits.

“I loved everybody and nobody can take that away from me,” Bullard said in the video.

Former Senate Democratic leaders and former Florida Democratic Party Chairman Rod Smith, who also served in the Senate, shared stories of Bullard, known for delivering lengthy speeches, asking frequent questions and “the Larcenia hug.”

“Larcenia Bullard was different. She was bigger than life. Her smile was wider her mind was freer… and I think she will live longer because she was real. She was genuine,” said Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville.

Smith recalled the pressure on Bullard during a contentious battle over Terri Schiavo that drew national attention. Bullard, a swing vote, first voted against the GOP-dominated legislature’s efforts to try to prevent the death of the brain-damaged Clearwater woman. In a tie vote, the bill did not pass. But Bullard later reconsidered her vote and made a motion to have the bill heard again, creating panic for Democrats and a bloc of Republicans who opposed intervening in Schiavo’s case.

Smith said Bullard asked him to pray with her in her office.

“She just wanted to do the right thing. She was personally connected to both sides,” Smith said, saying they prayed for a “long time.”

“At the conclusion she said she was comfortable. I believe Sen. Bullard made history in stopping what I thought would have been a horrible intrusion” into Schiavo’s life, Smith said.

He ended by quoting what Bullard said on the floor during debate on the issue:

“Let her die in peace. I know that is exactly what happened for my friend Sen. Bullard.”

Tearful Senate honors late Larcenia Bullard

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013 by Dara Kam

An emotional Florida Senate stood for a moment of silence to honor the late Larcenia Bullard, a long-time legislator who died Saturday at age 65.

Bullard’s son, Dwight, took her place in the Senate last year after Bullard, a Miami Democrat who served in the Legislature for nearly two decades, left office due to term limits.

A tearful Bullard encouraged his colleagues to emulate his mother, known for her sense of humor, compassion and inquisitiveness.

“She walked the halls smiling, hugging, speaking to everyone. Her place in history is set. My challenge to you is to take a piece of her spirit with you and learn to love the people,” Bullard said.

The Senate will hold a memorial service in Tallahassee on Tuesday from 4 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. in the chamber, followed by a reception in the Senate Democratic Office, Senate Democratic Leader Chris Smith said on the floor.

“I guarantee you there will be key lime pie,” said Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale. Bullard was responsible for the pie becoming the state’s state pie, and annually distributed slices of the South Florida treat to the members.

‘The biggest heart in the Senate’ Larcenia Bullard dies at age 65

Saturday, March 16th, 2013 by Dara Kam

Larcenia Bullard, a warm-hearted and outspoken veteran lawmaker who spawned a family legislative dynasty, has died. The Miami Democrat was 65.

whowho served nearly two decades in the Florida Legislature

Bullard served nearly two decades in the Florida Legislature and left office last year due to term limits. The one-time schoolteacher represented a Senate district that spanned six counties from the Keys north to Palm Beach County. Her son Dwight replaced her last year.

Bullard was known for giving long, impassioned floor speeches and a sunny spirit. She, her husband Ed, and her son Dwight all served in the Florida House.

Bullard was beloved by both Republican and Democrat leaders and was considered a Senate institution. She appeared this week in a Senate video leading the chamber in the “Harlem Shake” for the annual Capitol press skits.

In 2004, Bullard shocked and moved members when she spoke of being sexually abused by her father at a young age during Senate floor debate.

Bullard suffered two heart attacks before the 2010 legislative session. She was responsible for the Key lime pie becoming the official state pie, and lobbied for the cause by serving pie to the members on the Senate floor.

Gov. Rick Scott issued a statement saying Bullard served the state with “honor and integrity,” and Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, characterized the veteran lawmaker as having “the biggest heart in the Senate.” Senate Democratic Leader Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale, called her a “woman many loved for her outspoken ways and selfless devotion to the people she represented.”

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Senators take aim at parent trigger

Thursday, March 8th, 2012 by Dara Kam

The Senate is poised to close out the 2012 legislative session with a fiery debate over a controversial measure that would let parents decide the fate of failing schools after opponents scored several victories with amendments to the “parent trigger” bill late Thursday evening.

The proposal, based on one pushed in California by the “Parent Revolution,” would allow parents to decide on a turnaround option for schools graded “F” for at least three years in a row if more than 50 percent of parents sign petitions.

The petition process received the most attention Thursday night from opponents, a coalition of Democrats and Republicans who say the signature-gathering is rife for shenanigans as experienced in California, which became the first in the nation with its “Parent Empowerment” proposition two years ago.

The parent trigger plan is backed by GOP leaders including Senate President Mike Haridopolos, Senate Rules Chairman John Thrasher and former Gov. Jeb Bush. Several Los Angles-based Parent Revolution lobbyists, in the Capitol for weeks advocating for the proposal, were in the public gallery during a heated debate over the bill (SB 1718) Thursday night.

Opponents include teachers unions and a coalition of Florida parent-led groups including the PTA, also watching the two-hour debate from the gallery. The measure has already flared emotions and procedural maneuvering in the Senate.

Proponents beat down several amendments on 21-19 votes – including one that would have criminalized bribing parents to sign the petitions – indicating Friday’s vote will be close. But opponents, including Senate Democratic Leader Nan Rich, said they believe they have enough votes to kill the measure on a 20-20 tie.

The anti-parent trigger group repeatedly tried to make changes to the signature-gathering process that would have put it on a par with petition-gathering requirements included in a controversial election law passed last year and signed by Gov. Rick Scott.

One change would have made it a misdemeanor to take or offer a bribe in exchange for a signature and made it a misdemeanor to falsify signatures. But opponents of that amendment called it overreaching, eliciting outrage from Sen. Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale.

“Are you kidding me? We put this in an election year last year people. We did this. But now it’s overreaching. It’s undemocratic. Are you kidding me?” Smith said. The amendment was defeated on a 21-19 vote.

But Rich scored a win with an amendment requiring that signatures be valid, undoing language in the original bill sponsored by Republican Lizbeth Benacquisto of Fort Myers that would have allowed signatures submitted after the validation period to be accepted.

“If you don’t vote for this amendment, it means you condone fraud,” Rich, D-Weston, said.

Accusations of fraudulent signatures and coercion of parents are plaguing a parent trigger effort at a Mojave Desert school in California, where both sides are accusing each other of wrongdoing and a judge is considering open an investigation.

The Florida proposal would give parents a say in federal turnaround options for failing schools that include conversion into profit or non-profit charter schools or hiring for-profit management company to take them over, which critics say is part of an overall effort to privatize Florida’s public schools.

Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, failed to convince a majority to sign off on her plan requiring the charter schools to pay rent to school districts if they take over a failing school.

But she rallied enough votes to include a provision banning foreign nationals from owning or operating the charter schools.

Before the floor session wrapped up at 10 p.m., Senate Majority Leader Andy Gardiner railed against his colleagues for objecting to giving parents more control over poor-performing schools.

“I know it’s late. And I know everybody’s emotional. But keep in mind what we’re talking about here. We’re talking about parents that are sending their children every day to an F school. Every day to an F school,” Gardiner, R-Orlando, said. “We’ve gotten off track here a little bit…These are F schools. These are just parents. Parents that want an opportunity to have their children go to a better school. We want to put a misdemeanor on them?”

Speaking against the bill, Sen. Larcenia Bullard invoked hanging chads, fraudulent petition-gathering campaigns in which dead people’s names were signed on petitions and other horribles.

“Trigger bill is double-barrel Glock,” Bullard, R-Miami, said.

Red-light cameras the way to stop cheating husbands and pot-smoking kids?

Monday, October 17th, 2011 by Dara Kam

An update on red-light cameras in the Senate Transportation Committee gave lawmakers the opportunity to vent some concerns about the traffic devices.

Sen. Larcenia Bullard related a tale of one of her constituents’ sons who was caught by a red-light camera while toting some of his pot-smoking pals. Police used the tape showing his back-seat buddies getting high to charge the teenager with a drug offense instead of a traffic infraction, said Bullard, whose district includes part of Palm Beach County.

Bullard said the cameras should take photos limited in size to the trunk of the car and not include the window of the vehicle. That way officers – and others – can’t peek at what’s going on inside, she said.

“A man is sitting in the back seat with a woman who he’s not married to and his wife,” Bullard, D-Miami, said, drawing snickers from her committee colleagues. “But it’s very true. This is real. This stuff happens. I see where this camera is really working but we need to get beyond taking pictures of that back window where you can see someone cheating on his wife or someone smoking marijuana.”

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