House Passes Florida GI Bill On Opening Day Of 2014 Session

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News Release: Florida House of Representatives
Updated: March 4, 2014, 4:30pm

Tallahassee, Fla.—The Florida House of Representatives today unanimously passed CS/CS/HB 7015, the Florida GI Bill, which promotes the education and career development of our military personnel and honors and provides for our veterans.

“The Florida House proudly stands behind our men and women in uniform. This bill acknowledges the many sacrifices these individuals have made and aims to provide them with a meaningful path to education and employment,” said House Speaker Will Weatherford (R-Wesley Chapel). “I appreciate Representatives Renuart and Smith’s service to our nation and their leadership on this bill.”

“With today’s passage of this important bill, we are on our way to making Florida the number one state in the nation for our veterans, members of the military, and their families. These individuals have made tremendous sacrifices for our country, and they deserve our respect and gratitude. Florida prides itself on supporting our troops. This bill is another way to show our appreciation for their service as we help them earn higher education and gain civilian careers after their time in the military,” said State Representative Jimmie Smith (R-Inverness), a retired U.S. Army Staff Sergeant and sponsor of the bill.

“Today, on the first day of the legislative session, the House proudly passed important legislation to establish Florida as the ‘Welcome Home’ state for our veterans and military personnel. To express our gratitude to those wearing our nation’s uniform, this bill helps make education more affordable and career success more attainable for all members of our military,” said State Representative Ronald “Doc” Renuart (R-Ponte Vedra Beach), a retired Colonel of the Florida Army National Guard and Chair of the House Veteran and Military Affairs Subcommittee.

The bill provides funding to expand the Education Dollars for Duty Program to pay for deployed Florida National Guard members to obtain a four-year baccalaureate degree at a state university or Florida College System institution through in-class or online courses, and waives out-of-state tuition and fees for honorably discharged veterans of the United States Armed Forces, the United States Reserve Forces and the National Guard. The bill also expands Florida’s veterans’ preference in the employment process to include currently excluded veterans, certain family members of veterans, and members of the United States Armed Forces Reserves and the Florida National Guard, and extends the current Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) professional licensure fee waiver program from 24 months to 60 months from honorable discharge. The bill ensures that our military bases stay valuable and sustainable by providing base buffering and continuing to restore and renovate our armories. The bill creates a nonprofit corporation, Florida Is For Veterans, Inc., which encourages veterans to make Florida their home, equips them with employment opportunities, and promotes the hiring of veterans, and provides the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs with the opportunity to support veterans and their families through the sale of memorial bricks that will be used to construct the Florida Veterans’ Walk of Honor and the Florida Veterans’ Memorial Garden.

News Release: Florida Senate

Tallahassee–Senate Proposed Bill 7020 was introduced and unanimously approved today by the Senate Committee on Military and Veterans Affairs, Space and Domestic Security, chaired by Senator Thad Altman (R-Melbourne). The legislation, known as the Florida GI Bill, is a joint priority of Senate President Don Gaetz (R-Niceville) and House Speaker Will Weatherford (R-Wesley Chapel) and was announced last week as a component of the joint House and Senate Work Plan 2014 5-point agenda.

“As a Senator from Northwest Florida, I have the honor of representing five military bases as well as tens of thousands of active duty servicemen and women, military retirees and their families,” said President Gaetz. “This great bill is the product of input from military communities across our state who let us know Florida can do more to celebrate the service and sacrifice of our military.”

“The Florida GI Bill expands education and employment opportunities for those in active military service and our veterans and makes strategic investments in Florida’s military infrastructure,” said Senate President Pro Tempore Garett Richter (R-Naples). “This bill is a top priority for the Florida Senate during the 2014 Session. Together with our House colleagues we will show our thanks and gratitude to those who serve our county by making Florida the top ‘Welcome Home’ state for our military, our veterans and their families.”

“Because my district is home to a significant number of military members, I see the sacrifices they face day in and day out to protect our freedom,” said Senator Altman. “This bill offers the opportunity to make Florida a home to and destination for these brave service men and women, our veterans and their families, and I am excited to see that President Gaetz and Speaker Weatherford have made protecting those who protect us a 2014 priority.”

Senate Bill 7020 waives out-of-state tuition for honorably discharged veterans and funds scholarships, including online programs and book stipends, through the Education Dollars for Duty Program for members of the Florida National Guard who are not eligible for the federal GI Bill. The legislation creates a public-private partnership which would include: a marketing campaign to promote Florida as a permanent residence to military personnel and communicate to veterans looking to or currently calling Florida home about the resources and benefits the state has to offer; provide an entrepreneur mentoring program for veterans; and offer grants to businesses who train veterans for jobs. Finally, the legislation includes funding to finish the state’s commitment to restore and renovate Florida National Guard armories through the Florida Armory Revitalization Program, as well as funding to continue base buffering efforts to preserve Florida’s military missions and protect our military bases from encroachment.

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