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Florida’s legislative leaders got richer last year

Florida House Speaker Jose Oliva saw his net worth climb to $15.2 million. The next speaker, however, Chris Sprowls, saw his net worth jump by 50 percent.
Left to Right: Rep. Chris Sprowls, R- Palm Harbor, greets new Florida House Speaker Jose Oliva, R- Miami Lakes before Oliva was sworn in, Tuesday, November 20, 2018 at the Florida Capitol. [SCOTT KEELER | Times]
Published Jul. 3
Updated Jul. 3

TALLAHASSEE — Florida legislative leaders don’t appear to have had financial hardships as they took charge of the House and Senate last year.

House Speaker Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, posted an 11.3 percent increase in his net worth as of Dec. 31, while Senate President Bill Galvano, R-Bradenton, recorded a 6 percent increase, according to financial-disclosure reports filed with the Florida Commission on Ethics.

Oliva reported a $15.2 million net worth, bolstered by $7.25 million in bank and investment accounts and $5.59 million in real estate investments. Oliva’s primary residence accounted for $1.28 million of his real estate.

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The $15.2 million number was up from a net worth of $13.65 million as of Dec. 31, 2017, reports show. Lawmakers file disclosures each summer, but the reports typically reflect their finances at the end of the previous year.

Oliva said he tries to be “as detailed and comprehensive and open as possible” in his disclosure forms, saying that financial reporting can be a “bit of a burden” but is necessary for people who hold public office.

“I have a very separate source of income and wealth outside the state,” Oliva said. “That’s beneficial to greater independence.”

Oliva, who sold $9.2 million in shares of the family-run Oliva Cigar Co. to Belgium-based J. Cortes Cigars in 2016, earned $347,629 from the company last year. He also picked up another $500,000 from the sales of shares of Oliva Cigar last year.

Oliva reported his legislative position paid $30,140, and he received income of $171,764 through a brokerage account with Charles Schwab.

State officials faced a Monday deadline to file updated financial-disclosure reports, though they have a “grace period” until Sept. 1. If reports are not filed by that date, officials can face fines.

Rep. Chris Sprowls, a Palm Harbor Republican who is slated to take over as House speaker after the 2020 elections, posted a net worth of $351,632 in his new report. An attorney who chairs the House Rules Committee, Sprowls had reported a net worth of $232,879 a year ago.

Sprowls biggest asset is his home, valued at $550,000. A 2009 graduate of Stetson University College of Law, Sprowls reported $81,267 in outstanding student loans and a mortgage of $305,567.

In a statement, Sprowls noted that much of his net worth growth came from an increase in his home’s value and a decrease of more than $25,000 in his student loan debt compared to the prior reporting period.

“I believe in paying back loans and paying down debt,” Sprowls said.

Galvano, an attorney who entered the Senate in 2012 with a net worth of about $1.5 million, put his finances at just under $2.7 million as of May 31, according to his newly filed report. That was up from $2.54 million in a report filed last year.

Galvano’s Bradenton home has grown in value from $750,000 in 2012 to a little more than $1.03 million this year.

His ownership interest in the law firm Grimes Goebel Grimes Hawkins Gladfelter & Galvano has remained unchanged at $300,000 in that period. However, his profit sharing from the firm has grown from $87,954 in 2012 to $262,340 in the latest report. He also drew $239,519 in income from the firm last year.

His legislative position earned him $28,005 last year, and he received an additional $40,000 through Mote Scientific Foundation.

In the past few years, Galvano has added ownership stakes in several entities, including a $25,000 ownership interest in the New York theatrical company Jagged Little Pill, LLC.

Sen. Wilton Simpson, a Trilby Republican who listed a net worth of nearly $25.92 million, is in line to take over as Senate president after the 2020 elections.

Simpson has seen his net worth grow 66.5 percent since being elected to the Senate in 2012.

In that time, Simpson’s stake in Simpson Farms, an egg farm in Trilby, has increased in value from $8.78 million to $14.39 million. Simpson Environmental Services, which provides duct cleaning and asbestos removal, has grown from just over $3 million to about $6.37 million.

Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez, a former House member from Miami, posted a net worth of $977,523 in her new report, up 2.5 percent from the prior year when it was $953,097.

Nunez, who has worked in the past as a health-care lobbyist, earned $29,697 last year from the state and another $148,000 from her company, On Point Strategies.

The firm’s “major source of income,” according to the financial disclosure form, was Jackson Health System in Miami.

Paperwork filed with the Department of State in February showed Nunez still listed as the registered agent of the company and as co-manager with her husband, Adrian O. Nunez.

-- Times staff writer Allison Ross and News Service staff writer Christine Sexton contributed to this report.

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