The Florida Legislature convened in Tallahassee before the Thanksgiving holiday for an organizational session. New lawmakers were sworn in, and new leaders were installed.
Chief Justice Charles Canady administered the oath of office to senators in groups of five. Then, Sen. Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton) was nominated unopposed to be the 88th Florida Senate President. Galvano was elected to the chamber in 2012 and previously served in the Florida House.
In seconding his nomination, Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto (R-Fort Myers) referred to Galvano’s Sicilian heritage.
“I’ll start with three quotes from the Corleone’s and ‘The Godfather’ that immediately come to mind when we think of you,” Benacquisto said. “’Don’t ever take sides against the family – ever.’ ‘You’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse.’ And ‘never let anyone know what you’re thinking.’ Now those may seem funny to share in a nomination speech, but take note, my friends. They may be quite instructive over the next two years.”
The Senate’s approval was unanimous. In his speech, Galvano asked for civility and decorum in the Senate’s interactions with fellow lawmakers and constituents.
“As Senate President, I have little ability to change the national discourse or to stem the tide of modern-day incivility that is so pervasive in an era of social media and the 24-hour news cycle,” Galvano said. “But I can tell you as Senate President, and while I’m Senate President, that the Florida Senate will have civility, transparency, candor, and provide opportunity - including opportunity for the people of Florida to be heard by this body.”
Sen. David Simmons (R-Longwood) was elected as President Pro Tem, and Sen. Audrey Gibson (D-Jacksonville) was chosen to lead the Senate Democratic Caucus.
New members of the Florida House were also sworn in, and outgoing House Speaker Richard Corcoran announced Rep. Jose Oliva (R-Hialeah) as his replacement following a chamber vote.
Oliva said the chamber would work to protect the environment, care for vulnerable citizens, and provide for building and maintaining public infrastructure.
“So members, our work begins. In this chamber, the people’s chosen representatives will debate the way forward. Let us remember to honor and respect this institution and one another,” Oliva said, “and let our debate lean on the strength of our argument rather than on the volume of our voices.”
Rep. MaryLynn Magar (R-Hobe Sound) was elected Speaker Pro Tem. Rep. Dane Eagle (R-Cape Coral) was chosen as Republican majority leader, and Rep. Kionne McGhee (D-Cutler Bay) was elected to lead the House Democratic Caucus.
The regular session of the Legislature convenes March 5th.