By Jim Turner, The News Service of Florida
TALLAHASSEE — More millionaires are deciding how Florida tax dollars should be used and which laws should be passed.
With all but three lawmakers in the 160-member Legislature filing annual financial-disclosure reports, the average net worth of state senators is $5.9 million, according to an analysis by The News Service of Florida. In the House, the average stands at $1.7 million.
Topping the list is Sen. George Gainer, a Panama City Republican who owns a fleet of auto dealerships across North Florida.
The former Bay County commissioner, who cruised into state office in 2016, reported his net worth as of the end of 2018 at $46.46 million. That was up 1.4 percent from the prior year and 66.5 percent higher than the $27.9 million he reported when he first ran for the Senate.
Second on the list, and first in the House, is Rep. Ralph Massullo, a Lecanto Republican who is a dermatologist. Massullo. also first elected to state office in 2016, reported a net worth of $42.4 million as of April 30. Massullo, who came into office with a net worth of $26.8 million, saw his net worth grow more than 16 percent from $36.4 million as of March 2018.
Overall, of the 40 senators, 27 reported net worths of more than $1 million. Nine senators exceedd the chamber’s $5.9 million average.
In the House, 43 of the 120 members reported net worths of more than a $1 million. The $1.7 million average was topped by 26 members. Rep. Joe Geller, an Aventura Democrat who posted a net worth of $1.03 million a year ago, has received an extension until Oct. 18 to file this year’s report.
Lawmakers are required each year to file detailed disclosures that list assets, liabilities and calculate net worths. Most of the newly filed reports reflect information from the end of 2018.
The reports are due July 1, but lawmakers receive a “grace period” to file them without incurring penalties. Notices of fines were sent Friday to Rep. Kamia Brown, D-Ocoee, and Rep. Anika Omphroy, D-Lauderdale Lakes, because they had not filed reports. Both were sent postcard reminders from the state Commission on Ethics on Aug. 20 and had messages left with their aides three days later, commission spokeswoman Kerrie Stillman said Monday.
Fines run $25 a day with the maximum total capped at $1,500.
Among returning lawmakers whose paperwork was filed, 106 reported increases in net worths, while 45 went down, and three posted no changes.
The combined total of 70 millionaires in the current House and Senate class is up from 62 that completed the 2017-2018 legislative class. The 2016-2017 class had 55 millionaires. There were 51 in the 2013-2014 class and 52 for the legislative class of 2011-2012.
In the newly filed reports, the other wealthiest lawmakers are Sen. Tom Wright, R-New Smyrna Beach, $30.4 million; Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, $25.9 million; Sen. Kevin Rader, D-Delray Beach, $25.5 million; Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, $23.45 million; House Speaker Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, $15.2 million; Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, $13.88 million; Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, $13.6 million; and Sen. Jason Pizzo, D-North Miami Beach, $9.3 million.
Simmons and Pizzo are among 38 attorneys who fill the ranks of the Legislature
Rader, who manages Boca Raton-based CKP Insurance, is one of 26 involved in the insurance, finance, real estate or construction industries.
Fine lists his current occupation as businessman, one of 31 lawmakers to be listed as an executive, businessman, businesswoman, business owner or small business owner.
Wright owns Mazeppa, Minnesota-based businesses that specialize in air compressors and air supplied respiratory protection systems.
Simpson, in line to become Senate president after the 2020 elections, 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. His stake in Simpson Environmental Services, which provides duct cleaning and asbestos removal, has grown from just over $3 million to about $6.37 million.
Current Senate President Bill Galvano, a Bradenton Republican who is an attorney, reported a net worth of just under $2.7 million as of May 31.
Oliva’s $15.2 million net worth is a 11.3 percent jump from his net worth at the end of 2017. His figures are 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.
Oliva, who sold $9.2 million in shares of 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 sale of shares of Oliva Cigar Co.
While the Legislature is dotted with millionaires, it also includes lawmakers who filed more-modest disclosures.
Rep. Dan Daley, a Coral Springs Democrat who was elected without opposition to fill a vacant seat this year, posted a net worth of negative $281,716, primarily due to his student loans. He graduated from Florida State University in 2010 and the Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad College of Law in 2015.
Daley is one of eight House members with negative net worths, most due to home or student loans. No senators were in the red, though Sen. Oscar Braynon, a Miami Gardens Democrat who lists his occupation as consultant, posted a net worth of $2,264.