Bill Galvano has plenty of experience dealing with unexpected challenges.
Earlier this year Galvano, a Bradenton Republican who will become president of the Florida Senate if his party keeps its majority in November, shepherded a big school safety bill through the Legislature in response to the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.
At the same time, Galvano worked to address the fallout from Hurricane Irma, including advancing priority legislation of Gov. Rick Scott that required nursing homes and assisted living centers to have back-up power generators.
And before that Galvano served in the state House during a time when Florida was hit by eight hurricanes in two years.
Now there’s the aftermath of Hurricane Michael, one of the most powerful storms ever to hit the United States.
Michael laid waste to a stretch of the Florida Panhandle between Panama City and the Big Bend.
Emergency response experts are still assessing the damage and restoring basic services to the affected region. While the destruction wrought by Michael is severe in some areas, the precise scope of the recovery effort that will be needed is unclear, and it remains to be seen whether major policy issues will arise out of the storm.
“We’ll assess the impacts in the Panhandle, and I’m sure we’ll be looking at ways to mitigate and help those communities recover,” Galvano said.
An avid golfer, Galvano talks about “playing the hole you’re on.” In other words, focus on the challenge at hand.
Galvano has a number of priorities heading into his first session as Senate president, but Michael presents pressing needs that could force lawmakers to adjust.
“You have to be prepared to react and to reassess and prioritize your actions in order to first mitigate the injury to the people who are at the front lines of such an event, the ones who are suffering the most, and then to learn from it and prepare for a situation that may be similar in the future,” Galvano said.
The state has nearly $4 billion in reserves to help address the immediate needs of communities impacted by Michael, such as repairing vital infrastructure.
But the Legislature likely will be asked to appropriate other funds to help with various hurricane-related issues. After Irma, lawmakers sent millions to the Florida Keys to help pay for a new emergency operations center, affordable housing, a storm shelter and other needs.
Michael destroyed important emergency operations facilities in some communities. A number of rural counties and municipalities with limited resources were especially hard hit.
Galvano said lawmakers will take the needs of hurricane-damaged communities into consideration when crafting the state budget.
“When you get into the nitty-gritty of the state budget, there are programs that get funded and those that don’t,” Galvano said. “You always have a give and take — especially in an emergency situation — but that doesn’t mean that everything else stops.”
A series of deaths in a nursing home that lost power after Irma and experienced sweltering conditions prompted lawmakers to adopt the new generator requirement for such facilities. But many of the generators had not been installed by the time Michael hit. Facility operators asked for extensions, saying they had trouble getting the generators purchased, permitted and installed.
Whether Michael prompts any similar policy changes remains to be seen, but Galvano said the hurricane was a reminder that safety efforts should be a priority.
“If nothing else, this storm event should make it very clear that safety precautions are not something you can delay,” he said.
Shapiro further distances himself from Pelosi
After U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan released his first television ad linking Democratic opponent David Shapiro to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Shapiro came out and said he would not support Pelosi for speaker if Democrats win control of the House.
That hasn’t stopped Buchanan from tying the two Democrats together, though.
Buchanan put out another ad recently that say’s Shapiro is “handpicked & financed by Nancy Pelosi” and claims that Shapiro will “rubber stamp Pelosi’s socialist agenda.”
The ad says Shapiro supports “government health care” that would “bankrupt Social Security and Medicare” and concludes by alleging that Shapiro and Pelosi support “a socialist agenda that’s bad for America.”
Not only does Shapiro not support Pelosi, he does not support a single-payer health care system. Shapiro repeatedly has said he would not back efforts to expand Medicare to cover all Americans.
Instead, Shapiro wants to preserve the Affordable Care Act, which offers subsidies to help people buy private insurance.
Regardless, Buchanan’s ad seems to be having an impact.
Shapiro has responded by further distancing himself from Pelosi. The Democrat’s new ad says “politicians like Vern Buchanan and Nancy Pelosi have to go.”
Gruters and Good lead in fundraising
With just three weeks left before the election, the top fundraiser among state and local candidates running in Sarasota and Manatee counties is Republican state Rep. Joe Gruters, followed closely by Democratic state Rep. Margaret Good.
It’s no surprise that Gruters is pulling in big money as he seeks a state Senate seat covering Sarasota County and part of Charlotte County. He is well connected locally and in Tallahassee after serving as chair of the Sarasota GOP, vice chair of the Republican Party of Florida, co-chair of President Donald Trump’s Florida campaign and as a state lawmaker for the last two years.
But it’s unusual for a Democrat to be near the top in fundraising in this region, where most seats lean Republican.
Good, a Siesta Key attorney seeking re-election in House District 72, has collected $482,281 between her campaign account and an affiliated political committee. Among Good’s biggest donors in recent weeks: The state’s largest teacher’s union gave her PAC $10,000, and Casey Key resident Sharon Carole gave $30,000.
Good’s GOP opponent, former Sarasota state Rep. Ray Pilon, has raised $123,417 but also is getting significant help from the Republican Party of Florida as he tries to reclaim the seat, which covers much of northern Sarasota County.
Good’s fundraising haul is just shy of the roughly $515,000 Gruters has collected between his campaign account and two political committees. That Good nearly matched Gruters in fundraising also is noteworthy because House districts are significantly smaller than Senate districts, so House candidates need less money to reach voters.
Lakewood Ranch-based developer Pat Neal contributed $10,000 to one of Gruters’ PACs, and the Florida Chamber of Commerce PAC gave $5,000. Another PAC that Gruters controls with Bradenton attorney Will Robinson, who is running for the state House District 71 seat, has collected big money from special interests, including $10,000 from the United States Sugar Corporation, $10,000 from Florida Power & Light, $5,000 from Jacksonville Kennel Club and $25,000 from FCCI Insurance Group.
Gruter’s opponent, Sarasota Democrat Olivia Babis, has collected $33,885.
After Gruters and Good, Robinson has raised the most money, collecting $347,500 between his campaign account and PAC. He also loaned his campaign $90,000. Robinson’s Democratic opponent, Bradenton attorney Tracy Pratt, has raised $58,633 and loaned her campaign $20,000. District 71 covers western Manatee County and a slice of northwestern Sarasota County.
In the state House District 74 race, Venice Democrat Tony Mowry has raised $98,662 between his campaign account and an affiliated committee to take on Sarasota Republican James Buchanan, who has collected $156,835 between his campaign account and PAC. District 74 covers southern Sarasota County.
In the state House District 73 contest, Sarasota Republican Tommy Gregory has collected $268,735 between his campaign account and PAC, while Bradenton Democrat Liv Coleman has raised $49,083 and loaned her campaign $5,000. District 73 covers eastern Manatee County and a portion of eastern Sarasota County.