Sen. Bill Galvano was designated as the next president of the Florida Senate on Tuesday with a unanimous vote by the Republican caucus.
Galvano, R-Bradenton, will succeed Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, after the 2018 general election if Republicans maintain a majority in the Senate, where they now hold a 24-16 seat edge.
In his acceptance speech, Galvano, a 51-year-old lawyer, promised to be an inclusive leader, relying on individual senators to develop ideas and solutions to future challenges, including the prospect of tighter state spending over the next few years.
“The power of the Florida Senate and its ability to function and serve the people at the highest effectiveness lies in maximizing the strengths, perspectives, background, skills and talents of each and every member of this body,” Galvano said.
While acknowledging immediate issues like dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Irma and the devastation of citrus greening disease on the state's agriculture industry, Galvano asked the senators to take a long view in developing policy.
“What I would like us to focus on in the long term are new ideas, better ways to do things,” Galvano said. “Innovation to prepare us to move boldly and strongly into the next century.”
Galvano said innovative ideas should not come from the government but from individuals. He also said government should provide a regulatory framework “that stops at what is necessary so it doesn't choke businesses with red tape and unnecessary administrative obstacles.”
He acknowledged projections that Florida government could face $1 billion-plus shortfalls in the coming years.
“We've all seen the budget forecast,” he said. “We will have to absolutely prioritize what is necessary and disregard what is waste.”
But quoting Abraham Lincoln, Galvano said the state must also look out for those “who can't do well for themselves,” including children, people with disabilities and the elderly.
After his speech, Galvano said he wanted his remarks to convey the type of Senate leader he wants to be.
“I wanted to send a very clear message to the members that I intend to learn from them, share ideas with them and value their input into the process,” he said.
In nominating Galvano, senators talked about his reputation for handling difficult legislative challenges in his 13-year career, which included eight years in the House.
Sen. Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa, a former Senate president, called Galavano “a deep thinker.”
“Together we have watched him tackle this institution's most difficult assignments with both competence and composure,” Lee said.
Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, called Galvano “a policy workhorse.”
Brandes said successful legislative leaders “have to understand the policy and the people,” saying Galvano “understands the policy at the 30,000-foot level and down in the weeds.”
Galvano was joined by his family, including his wife, Julie, his three children and his 82-year-old mother, Betty Galvano. A large contingent of friends and supporters from Manatee County also attended the ceremony in the Senate chamber.
In his speech, Galvano said the Legislature could set an “example of civility, openness and respectful discourse” in contrast to more divisive national political exchanges.
“Let's not make the debate about fear, about gamesmanship or about pettiness,” Galvano said.
But it may be difficult to avoid political skirmishes as Galvano's first major task will be maintaining the Republican majority in the Senate, where the Democrats are likely to challenge a half-dozen GOP-held seats in next year's elections.
The Florida Democratic Party wasted no time in attacking Galvano, citing his backing of a law that supports the expansion of charter schools in the state. The party said the newly designated Senate leader “is willing to put special interests before Floridians.”
“After 20 years of disastrous GOP policies, Florida is ready for a better deal,” the Democratic Party said in a statement.