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Dawson's Senate goodbye not one to miss

Senators resumed their floor farewells with one for Democratic Sen. Mandy Dawson, of Fort Lauderdale, praising her for warm personality and her commitment to health care and children's safety issues.

In the past, Dawson has been criticized frequently for her spotty legislative attendance record -- missing one third of her committee meetings last session and the majority of the floor votes in the second-to-last week of this year's lawmaking session. She cites ongoing health problems for her absences.

But Dawson, who came to the Legislature in 1992 and leaves this year because of term limits, was on the Senate floor for her formal goodbye. And her fellow Senators praised her for fighting through health problems to battle for health care reform and for children's safety issues, as she did last year when she passed a law increasing penalties for people who leave their children in cars unattended.

"Inside an outer shell that has endured a great deal of physical pain, there lies a great heart," Senate President Ken Pruitt said.

"Mandy has had her health issues, but she has fought through them...just to continue to represent the people she has fought for for so long," agreed Democratic Sen. Gary Siplin, of Orlando, whose nickname for Dawson is "Sister Girl."

Dawson then took the microphone herself. And after a few jokes about how she got her large 4th floor Senate office ("I asked Sen. [Jim] King who I needed to sleep with in order to get that office."), she credited her fellow Senators and her family for her accomplishments.

"My parents were simple people," she said. "But they taught me to be honorable in everything that I do. They also taught me that there is good and everything. My three daughters taught me that no one has power to decide who you are...I have stood to make my parents proud and to make my little girls proud."