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Parkland to Sinatra, a look at Florida’s Senate president

March 3, 2019
FILE- In this Jan. 30, 2019 file photo, Senate president Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, speaks at a pre-legislative news conference, in Tallahassee, Fla. Florida's 2019 Legislative session is set to begin with a new governor, new Legislative leaders and new priorities. But several issues will rise to the top of lawmaker's lists. Sen. Galvano wants to beef up infrastructure in rural counties. (AP Photo/Steve Cannon, File)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida’s new Republican Senate President Bill Galvano is about to begin his first legislative session as his chamber’s leader. The 52-year-old Bradenton lawyer served in the House from 2002 to 2010 and was elected to the Senate in 2012. The Associated Press recently sat down with him to talk about his priorities, his background and personality. Here’s what he had to say:

Question: What are your 2019 legislative priorities:

Answer: “First and foremost to empower the senators and promote civility and decorum in the chamber.”

Galvano also listed improving infrastructure in rural areas, addressing problems with red tide and education.

“Providing access for the rural communities — water, sewer, broadband, power and certainly roads — is a priority of mine. I want to see us adequately address red tide issues ... I want to have a balanced approach to K-12. We’re looking at the traditional public schools, to see where we can give them more flexibility and make their delivery of education easier.”

Question: How have the Parkland shootings changed the way you think about guns, the legislative process and the world around you?

Answer: “The Parkland shooting has, of course, changed me forever. Being there at ground zero right after the shooting, meeting with the people, watching the suffering of the parents attending the funerals — it has made clear that among all the myriad issues we need to address, there’s nothing more important than keeping our residents safe, and especially our kids. When we rolled out the Parkland bill, it sent a message that that issue transcends politics. We did somethings that traditionally never would have been done in a Republican controlled Legislature up to that point, and I’m talking specifically about the gun safety reforms ... I believe going forward, even long after I’m gone, we will always revisit and take the temperature to make sure we’re moving in the right direction to keep our residents and our kids safe.”

Question: What motivated you to first run for office?

Answer: “I’ve been interested in politics since a very young age. My mother was a great in influence in my life in terms of service in politics.” He said his former law partner, former State Rep Bill Grimes, who served in the 1950s, was also an influence. “I admired him, I learned from him and he was influential in my decision to run for office.”

Question: What is the one bill you are most proud of passing.

Answer: “It would have to be the Marjory Stoneman Douglas School Safety Act. It was a difficult bill — bipartisan support, bipartisan opposition — but for many reason that’s the one I’m most proud of.”

Question: What’s something you have in common with House Speaker Jose Oliva, and what’s something that’s different?

Answer: “We have in common the desire to be civil in our approach to politics ... Both of us are more reserved in how we conduct our business. We’re not trying to promote ourselves ... How are we different? We have different backgrounds. He comes from a business background, I come from a law background. I think that puts some nuances on how we approach issues.”

Question: How would you describe your leadership style?

Answer: “Trying to draw the best out of the people I work with. Empowering — that’s important to me. I am respecting and recognizing that I don’t represent any more people than the rest of my Senate colleagues do. And they bring diversity and talents to the process. I want to build ideas together.”

Question: What’s your favorite place in Florida outside of your district?

Answer: “Coral Cables. I like the Biltmore. My family and I go there during the Fourth of July. It’s so historical. I love the old golf course.”

Question: What brought your family to Florida?

Answer: Galvano said his father was a golf pro in New York, and one of his pupils was William Mote, a millionaire who built the Mote Marine Laboratory. When Galvano’s parents married, Mote recommended they honeymoon on Anna Maria Island and offered them use of his house. “My parents went down there, loved the area and made a commitment to one day to return permanently. About nine or 10 years later they came back.”

Question: What’s your greatest nonpolitical or non-legislative achievement?

Answer: “My role as husband and father, but that’s more of a blessing than an achievement. I would have to say in my practice, some unique cases where I’ve represented folks — not the big corporate clients, but some good folks who needed to be heard, who just needed some justice, and when that worked out, it was very rewarding for me.”

Question: What’s your favorite movie?

Answer: “Godfather II. Because when my father was living, and (the movie) would go back to the time of the early 1900s, he said the depiction was absolutely perfect. He said that’s how our neighborhood looked — the things, the cars, even Ellis Island.”

Question: Who is your favorite author?

Answer: “Of all time would have to be (Ernest) Hemingway, but I read so many different types. I like to see what’s on the best-sellers list, what’s current, but if I had to pick one, what I really enjoy is just classic Ernest Hemingway.”

Question: Who is your favorite musical artist?

Answer: “I’d go with Frank Sinatra, but I’m also a big Lady Gaga fan. I love Imagine Dragons. A musician for all seasons? Sinatra.”