Florida House Passes Tuition Break for Veterans

The "Florida GI" bill is aimed at helping veterans living in the Sunshine State

Tuesday, Mar 4, 2014  |  Updated 9:18 PM EDT
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Saying it could help the state's economy in the long run, the Florida House on Tuesday unanimously passed a "Florida GI" bill aimed at helping veterans living in the state.

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.

Rep. Jimmie Smith, R-Inverness, a 20-year veteran of the U.S. Army, contended that his bill (HB 7015) would make the state the "number one" place for veterans. Other legislators added that the bill would assist Florida weather the next round of base closings that will be considered later this decade.

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

Rep. Kathleen Peters, R-South Pasadena, said it was "inexcusable" that the state was currently charging out-of-state tuition rates to veterans who returned to live in Florida after serving overseas or in other parts of the country.

If the bill becomes law it would cost an estimated $12 million to offer the tuition break to veterans. The measure heads next to the Florida Senate, which is expected to send it to Gov. Rick Scott for approval.

The legislation also would waive professional licensing fees up to five years after a veteran is discharged.

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