Senate President Bill Galvano put his stamp on the Florida Senate on Monday, as he slimmed down the number of lawmakers holding committee chairmanships and trimmed the number of Democrats in leadership spots.
Galvano, a Bradenton Republican who was sworn in last week as president, kept some Republicans in the same spots they held last year under former Sen. President Joe Negron, including Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, a Fort Myers Republican who will remain in her role as chairman of the Rules Committee, and Sen. Rob Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican who returns as chairman of the Appropriations Committee.
But other senators who were in Negron’s inner circle --- including Sen. Anitere Flores, a Miami Republican who chaired the Banking and Insurance Committee and the Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee --- will have smaller roles. Flores will chair the Community Affairs Committee.
“It was with much deliberation that the appointments were made, input from the members and the knowledge of having served with many of them either in the House or the Senate or watched them from across the rotunda,” Galvano told The News Service of Florida. “Our team is well-positioned to serve the people of Florida with the many issues we’re presently facing.”
Helping round out Galvano’s leadership team is Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, a Naples Republican who assumes the post of Senate majority leader. Galvano said he named her to the position because she has a “good rapport” with Republican caucus members.
Democrats picked up a seat during the Nov. 6 elections, leaving Republicans with a 23-17 advantage in the Senate. But Galvano reduced the number of Democrats in charge of committees from four to two.
Sen. Lauren Book, D-Plantation, will chair the Children, Families and Elder Affairs Committee. Sen. Bill Montford, D-Tallahassee, will chair the Environment and Natural Resources Committee.
Galvano's biggest structural move was to merge four committees into two, resulting in fewer chairmanships to give out.
He combined the former Communications, Energy, and Public Utilities Committee and Regulated Industries Committee into the new Innovation, Industry and Technology Committee, which will be chaired by Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby. Simpson is expected to succeed Galvano as president in 2020 if Republicans keep their majority.
Galvano also combined the Transportation Committee and the domestic-security portion of the Military and Veterans Affairs committee to form the new Infrastructure and Security Committee. It will be chaired by Sen. Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa.
The changes also extended to budget-writing panels.
Galvano merged two education-spending panels --- the former Higher Education and PreK-12 Education subcommittees --- into one spending panel called the Education Appropriations Subcommittee. That will be chaired by Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland.
He also merged the former General Government and Environment and Natural Resources Appropriations subcommittees to form the Agriculture, Environment, and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee. That panel will be chaired by Sen. Debbie Mayfield, R-Rockledge.
Another change on the fiscal end is that Galvano elevated the former Finance and Tax Appropriations Subcommittee to a full standing committee, which will be chaired by Sen. George Gainer, R-Panama City.
Rounding out the committee chairmanships Galvano announced are:
--- Ben Albritton, R-Wauchula, chairman of the Agriculture Committee.
--- Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, chairman of the Commerce and Tourism Committee.
--- Keith Perry, R-Gainesville, chairman of the Criminal Justice Committee.
--- Gayle Harrell, R-Stuart, chairwoman of the Health Policy Committee.
--- Doug Broxson, R-Gulf Breeze, chairman of Banking and Insurance Committee.
--- David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, chairman of the Judiciary Committee.
--- Manny Diaz Jr., R-Hialeah, chairman of the Education Committee.
--- Ed Hooper, R-Clearwater, chairman of Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee.
--- Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, chairman of the Ethics and Elections Committee.
--- Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, chairman of the Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Subcommittee.
--- Aaron Bean, R-Fernandina Beach, chairman of the Senate Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee.
--- Travis Hutson, R-St. Augustine, chairman of the Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee.
--- Tom Wright, R-New Smyrna Beach, chairman of the Military and Veterans Affairs and Space Committee.
For more on the Senate committee assignments, click here and here. Galvano’s memo announcing the assignments is here.
--- News Service senior writer Dara Kam contributed to this report.