Reporting to Historic City News from Tallahassee this afternoon, State Representative Ronald “Doc” Renuart (R-Ponte Vedra Beach) brought us up-to-date on today’s opening session with some good news that have a direct, positive impact on St Augustine.
Renuart, a retired Colonel of the Florida Army National Guard, was excited to report that the Florida House of Representatives 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.
“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,” Renuart, who also chairs the House Veteran and Military Affairs Subcommittee, told local reporters. “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.”
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 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.”
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.
“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.
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.