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Lawmakers Pass 'Florida GI Bill,' Awaits Governor's Signature

Department of Veterans Affairs

It’s taken three attempts, but Florida student veterans will soon be granted in-state tuition waivers if the governor signs the newly passed legislation. All indications are that he will.

The Florida Legislature on Tuesday passed the “Florida GI Bill," CS/HB 7015, which among other things offers a tuition break to honorably discharged veterans regardless of when they moved to the state. It also includes college scholarships for National Guard members.

The legislation also funds $12.5 million in renovations at various armories and puts up $7.4 million to acquire land adjacent to existing military installations, including Tampa’s MacDill Air Force Base and two naval stations to prevent encroachment.

The goal was to make Florida the most military and veteran friendly state in the nation. The state is home to about 1.5 million veterans, and there is an estimated 61,000 active military personnel stationed in the state.

Sate Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples, a military vet himself, said returning veterans bring a unique skill set to the private sector, and the state should welcome them.

“Many military retirees are young. They have great leadership skills,” Richter said. “They have an outstanding work ethic, and we want to encourage them to make Florida their home over any other state.”

The bill also expands veterans hiring preferences and removes the one-year residency requirement to allow veterans immediate access to vacancies in the state nursing homes. And veterans, National Guard and Reserves who are honorably discharged are given reciprocity as license health care practitioners in their respective fields.

Gov. Rick Scott said Tuesday he’s looking forward to signing it into law.

Bobbie O’Brien has been a Reporter/Producer at WUSF since 1991. She reports on general news topics in Florida and the Tampa Bay region.
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