Scott Signs Bill Giving Tuition Break To Vets [GALLERY]

By: Associated Press News Email
By: Associated Press News Email
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News Release: Governor Rick Scott's Office
Updated: March 31, 2014, 4:45pm

PANAMA CITY, Fla. – Today, Governor Rick Scott was joined by Senate President Don Gaetz, Speaker of the House Will Weatherford, Representative Marti Coley, Speaker Pro Tempore, Representative Jimmie Smith, Representative Jimmy Patronis and Representative Doc Renuart to sign House Bill 7015 which creates the “Congressman C.W. Bill Young Tuition Waiver Program,” that waives out-of-state tuition fees for honorably discharged veterans.


News Release: Governor Rick Scott's Office
Updated: March 31, 2014, 2:15pm

PANAMA CITY, Fla. – Today, Governor Rick Scott was joined by Senate President Don Gaetz, Speaker of the House Will Weatherford, Senator Thad Altman, Senator Garrett Richter, Representative Doc Renuart, Representative Jimmie Smith and Representative Jimmy Patronis to sign House Bill 7015 which creates the “Congressman C.W. Bill Young Tuition Waiver Program,” that waives out-of-state tuition fees for honorably discharged veterans.

Governor Scott said, “My top priority is to create jobs for Florida families, and since every good job begins with a great education, I am proud to sign H.B. 7015 that will waive out of state tuition fees for honorably discharged veterans. I am pleased to also sign this legislation that will help our veterans find employment and expand career opportunities for veterans and their spouses. We are working to be the most military-friendly state in the nation, and this is another step to support our brave men and women who serve our nation.”

Senate President Don Gaetz said, “The Florida GI Bill makes Florida the most military-friendly state in the nation and supports the brave men and women who protect us at home and abroad. Through this bill, tens of thousands of active duty servicemen and women, military retirees and their families will see expanded education and employment options. Additionally, critical investments will be made to protect our military base missions and strengthen our National Guard Armories. It is an honor to stand alongside Governor Scott, Speaker Weatherford and service men and women of my district today as the Florida GI Bill is signed into law.”

House Speaker Will Weatherford said, "The Florida GI Bill increases our commitment to our servicemen and women by providing them with a meaningful opportunity to receive an education. I thank Governor Scott for signing this bill and standing up for our veterans."

Senator Thad Altman, bill sponsor said, "I am proud to join the Governor today in signing HB 7015. Not only will this new legislation waive out-of-state tuition rates for veterans, it will also fund scholarships for National Guard members. This law will benefit our veterans by providing them with a full range of options and possibilities that will better prepare them for their future."

Representative Jimmie Smith, bill sponsor said, "Thanks to the support of the Governor and the Legislature, this new law can now lead the way to making sure our men and women in uniform can find jobs when they return home. I was happy to sponsor this legislation and to be on hand to see this bill get signed today. I commend Governor Scott for his support on this issue."

Representative Marti Coley, Speaker Pro Tempore said, “Making Florida the most military-friendly state in the nation is a top priority of the Governor's as well as both the Florida House and Senate. This bill will help the men and women who have served our country receive the education they need and have even more job opportunities than ever before. It is truly a small way to show our gratitude for their service."

Representative Jimmy Patronis said, "I commend Governor Scott for signing this legislation to help our veterans find employment and expand career opportunities when they return home. This legislation reinforces the message that Florida makes our veterans a top priority."

Representative Ronald “Doc” Renuart said, “This bill continues to keep Florida as the most veteran friendly state. And it serves those who serve us.”

Major General Emmett R. Titshaw, Jr. said, "The men and women of the Florida National Guard are grateful for the support of the Governor and the actions by the legislature to pass the Florida GI Bill, and especially provisions directly benefiting members of the Florida National Guard. The enhanced educational benefits associated with Educational Dollars for Duty and funding for the Florida Armory Renovation Program (FARP) are especially helpful for Florida National Guard members, and the licensing provisions, veteran hiring preference and out-of-state tuition waiver will help all veterans."

Retired Army Colonel Mike Prendergast, executive director of the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs said, “Waiving out-of-state tuition fees for returning veterans has been the primary focus of Florida’s collegiate veterans for several years. From expanded education benefits and veterans’ outreach to enhanced hiring preferences and improved access to services, this remarkable legislation signed into law today truly means Florida is the most veteran and military friendly state in the nation.”


News Release: Florida Senate
Updated: March 31, 2014, 12:04pm

Panama City, FL – Florida Senate President Don Gaetz (R-Niceville) today attended Florida Governor Rick Scott’s signing of House Bill 7015, the Florida GI Bill, at the Florida National Guard Armory on Lisenby Avenue. The bi-partisan legislation, unanimously passed by both the House and Senate during the first two weeks of Florida’s 2014 Legislative Session, establishes Florida as the top “Welcome Home” state by expanding education and career development opportunities for military service members, veterans and their families.

“The Florida GI Bill makes Florida the most military-friendly state in the nation and supports the brave men and women who protect us at home and abroad,” said President Gaetz. “Through this bill, tens of thousands of active duty servicemen and women, military retirees and their families will see expanded education and employment options. Additionally, critical investments will be made to protect our military base missions and strengthen our National Guard Armories. It is an honor to stand alongside Governor Scott, Speaker Weatherford and service men and women of my district today as the Florida GI Bill is signed into law.”

The Florida GI Bill is a key component of the joint House and Senate “Work Plan Florida 2014” agenda authored by President Gaetz and House Speaker Will Weatherford (R-Wesley Chapel). To date three of the five Work Plan agenda items, including a nearly $400 million recurring reduction in vehicle registration fees and a comprehensive package of legislation to protect against sexual offenders have passed the Senate and House and been sent to Governor Scott. The Governor is expected to sign these priorities into law later this week.

“By passing the Florida GI Bill, our state has opened our arms to the men and women returning to their loved ones after courageously serving our country,” said Senator Garrett Richter (R-Naples), Senate President Pro Tempore and a Vietnam Bronze Star recipient who served with the 75th Army Rangers. “The State of Florida now leads the nation in offering service members and veterans opportunities for growth, and I hope other states follow suit in making a meaningful difference in the lives of our nation’s heroes and their families.”

“America’s veterans have made extraordinary sacrifices to protect our communities, state and nation. I am proud that Florida has chosen to celebrate this service and valor by expanding opportunities available for those who have defended our country,” said Senator Thad Altman, chair of the Senate Military and Veterans Affairs Committee, Senate sponsor of the Florida GI Bill.

Expanding Education and Employment Opportunities

Education
The GI Bill increases funding for the Educational Dollars for Duty (EDD) program to cover career certification and continuing education for maintaining licensure, provides for out-of-state student veterans to receive in-state tuition rates via the Congressman C.W. Bill Young Veteran Tuition Waiver Program, and encourages military base commanders and the Commissioner of Education to work together to increase military family student achievement. Specifically, $1.53 million in recurring funding is allocated towards the EDD program to expand education options for National Guard members to include industry certifications and continuing education to maintain license certifications. Preference in the distribution of funds is given to those National Guard members who have deployed on federal military orders. Textbook costs may be reimbursed after tuition has been paid for all eligible members in that year. The Department of Military Affairs (DMA) will receive $250,000 in nonrecurring funds for IT upgrades associated with administering and auditing the EDD program.

The GI Bill creates the Congressman C.W. Bill Young Veteran Tuition Waiver Program which directs state universities, state colleges, career centers, and technical centers to waive out-of-state tuition fees for honorably discharged veterans. Tuition and fees charged to an out-of-state student veteran may not exceed the tuition and fees charged to a resident student.

The bill provides legislative intent that the unique needs of military families be met and a framework be established to provide children of military families with a high-quality education. Military installation commanders are encouraged to work with the Commissioner of Education to increase military family student achievement, which may include the establishment of charter schools on military bases.

Florida is for Veterans, Inc.
Florida is for Veterans, Inc. (FIV) will be administratively housed at the Florida Department of Veteran Affairs (DVA). The corporation is charged with promoting the value of military skill sets to businesses in the state and assisting in training veterans via the VETS program. FIV will receive $300,000 from Visit Florida for market research on the veteran and military community and advise Visit Florida in the development and implementation of a marketing campaign encouraging veterans and service members to make Florida their permanent residence.

The VETS program, housed at FIV, is a workforce training program that caters to the unique training needs of veterans. This program is structured to serve as a hub where employers can be connected with veterans looking for jobs. Training that is needed to fulfill workforce needs can be funded through the VETS program. The program also provides services, such as resume building and helping veterans translate military training into civilian workforce skills. As part of the VETS program, FIV will contract with one or more university systems to establish entrepreneurial training programs for veterans.

Veteran Preference in Hiring
The GI Bill expands the employment preference for positions in state, local and regional governmental entities, including the public education system, to all veterans, current members of the Reserves and the Florida National Guard, and the parents and spouses of service members who died in combat. The bill also establishes a permissive preference in private employment which allows businesses to establish hiring policies to give veterans and the spouses of disabled or deceased veterans’ preference.

Driver Licenses and Professional Licenses
The bill exempts an active duty service member’s spouse and dependents with out-of-state driver licenses who reside with him or her from the requirement to obtain a Florida driver license if the service member’s spouse begins employment in Florida or a dependent enrolls in a Florida public school. The bill also clarifies the spouse and dependent are eligible for an automatic extension without reexamination for a Florida driver license that expires while he or she is stationed outside of Florida. Additionally, the bill waives the initial licensing fees for 60 months for licenses obtained through the Department of Business and Professional Regulation and the Department of Health (DOH) for honorably discharged veterans and their spouses.

Nursing Home Residency, Physician Licensing, and Pharmaceutical Distributor Representatives
The GI Bill removes the one-year residency requirement to allow veterans, who meet all other requirements for admission and are currently residents of the state, immediate access to vacancies in the state nursing homes.

Reciprocity is provided to license health care practitioners in their respective fields if those applicants have received, or will receive, an honorable discharge from service in the U.S. Armed Forces, including Reserve and National Guard components, or the U.S. Public Health Service.
The DOH application process for veteran and active military physicians applying for a temporary certificate for practice in underserved communities is streamlined. DOH must make a determination within ten days of receipt of the application.

The bill adds experience with handling prescription drugs for the U.S. Armed Forces to the list of qualifying experiences to become a certified representative of a wholesale drug distributor.

Investing in Florida’s Military Infrastructure

Base Buffering
The bill fully funds the top-tier base buffering needs of our military installations. This includes an appropriation for $7,489,975 to acquire lands around NSA Panama City (8.4 acres), NS Mayport (11 acres), and MacDill AFB (25.5 acres). The purchase of these non-conservation lands secures and protects the military installation against encroachment.

Armory Revitalization
The GI Bill appropriates $12.5 million which covers the next year of funding of the Florida Armory Revitalization Program (FARP). Some of Florida’s armories have not been modernized since the 1960s and funding FARP is critical to the National Guard’s ability to keep armories safe and serviceable.

Other Military-Friendly Bills Progressing Through the Senate This Session

SB 378 – Discounts on Public Facility Fees and Fares
Sponsored by Senator Abruzzo
Requires county and municipal departments of parks and recreation to provide a full or partial discount on park entrance fees to military members, veterans, and certain spouses. Also requires regional transportation authorities to provide disabled veterans with discounts on fares or charges.


  • Passed Second Senate Committee (Community Affairs)

SB 486 – Federal Write-In Ballots
Sponsored by Senator Evers
Allows service members serving overseas to use the Federal Write-in Absentee Ballot (FWAB) for state/local ballot measures and judicial merit retention elections.


  • Unanimously Passed by the Senate on March 18, 2014.

,b>SB 596 – Defense Contracting
Sponsored by Senator Evers
Provides corporate income tax incentives to encourage prime defense contractors to contract with sub-primes in Florida.


  • Passed Second Senate Committee (Military and Veteran Affairs, Space and Domestic Security)

SB 608 – Monuments on the Capitol Complex
Sponsored by Senator Dorothy Hukill
Establishes the POW-MIA Chair of Honor Memorial.


  • Passed Second Senate Committee (Rules)

SB 692/ HB 713 – Engineers
Sponsored by Senator Stargel
Allows, among other things, additional attempts to take the examination to practice in the state as an engineer for an applicant delayed in taking the examination due to his or her service in the U.S. Armed Forces.


  • Passed Second Senate Committee (Ethics and Elections)

SB 724 – Military Veterans
Senate Bill Sponsored by Senator Dean
Renames the “Korean Conflict” and the “Vietnam Era” to “Korean War” and the “Vietnam War.” Creates a special use license plate for recipients of the Combat Medical Badge, renames the “Korean Conflict Veteran” special use license plate the “Korean War Veteran” license plate, and requires military-related special use license plates to be redesigned to bear the likeness of the respective campaign medal or badge.


  • Passed Second Senate Committee (Transportation)

SB 858 –OGSR/Florida Defense Support Task Force
Committee Bill by Military and Veterans Affairs Committee
Reenacts the public records and public meetings exemptions accorded to the Florida Defense Support Task Force.


  • Unanimously Passed the Senate on March 18, 2014.

SB 958 – Fee and Toll Waivers for Purple Heart Recipients
Sponsored by Senator Simpson
Entitles Purple Heart recipients to a free lifetime family annual pass for entrance into Florida state parks.


  • Passed Second Committee of Reference (Transportation)

For more information, please visit www.flsenate.gov.


News Release: Florida House
Updated: March 31, 2014, 11:45am

Tallahassee, Fla.—Florida House Majority Leader Steve Crisafulli (R-Merritt Island) and State Representative Jimmie Smith (R-Inverness), sponsor of CS/CS/HB 7015, today released the following statement regarding Governor Rick Scott signing the Florida GI Bill into law.

“I would like to thank the Governor for signing this important piece of legislation today to ensure that Florida is the top 'welcome home' state for our veterans and military personnel,” said Leader Crisafulli. “I can't think of a better way to show our appreciation to these brave servicemen and women than to make education more affordable and career success more attainable.”

“I thank Governor Scott for standing behind our men and women in uniform and supporting this legislation that will help them pursue a higher education and gain civilian careers after their time in the military,” said Rep. Smith. “With his signature today, the Governor is taking the final step toward making Florida the number one state in the nation for veterans, members of the military, and their families. These individuals make tremendous sacrifices for our country and deserve our sincere appreciation and support.”


News Release: Associated Press News
Updated: March 31, 2014, 11:45am

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (AP) -- Veterans living in the state of Florida will get some additional benefits under a bill signed by Gov. Rick Scott.

On Monday, Scott signed the "Florida GI" bill at the National Guard Armory in Panama City.

The bill offers a tuition break to honorably discharged veterans regardless of when they moved to the state.

The tuition break will cost an estimated $12 million.

The bill also includes college scholarships for National Guard members and sets aside money to renovate armories and acquire land adjacent to existing military installations in the state. It also waives professional licensing fees up to five years after a veteran is discharged.

Florida has roughly 1.5 million veterans, and there are an estimated 61,000 active military personnel stationed in the state.


Associated Press News Release

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Veterans living in Florida would get a tuition break as part of a "military friendly" bill that is headed to the desk of Gov. Rick Scott.

The Florida Legislature on Tuesday passed the "Florida GI" bill.

The key part of the bill would offer a tuition break to honorably discharged veterans regardless of when they moved to the state.

But the measure also includes college scholarships for National Guard members, while also setting aside money to renovate armories and acquire land adjacent to existing military installations in the state.

Backers of the legislation (HB 7015) contend it would make the state the "number one" place for veterans.

Florida has roughly 1.5 million veterans, and there is an estimated 61,000 active military personnel stationed in the state.


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