Florida GI Bill Unanimously Passes Senate, Heads to Rick Scott

Hey lookit, everybody! The state Senate actually agreed on something! Unanimously, even.

The Florida Legislature has passed the "Welcome Home" bill on Tuesday. The bill will make Florida veterans eligible for in-state tuition and will provide scholarships for members of the state's National Guard while reducing education costs for military veterans.

Sen. Garrett Richter, a Vietnam vet who won a Bronze Star in that war, says he wants to make sure veterans look to Florida as the place for them to build their lives.

"We want to encourage them to make Florida their home over any other state," he said.

The bill -- HB 7015 -- passed the House by a 116-0 vote last week and then the Senate on Tuesday by a 38-0 vote and will now be sent to Gov. Rick Scott's desk to make it all legit.

Much of the bill's $21.7 million price tag goes to renovating armories in Florida. It also devotes $1.5 million to the Department of Military Affairs to fund scholarships and expanding the state's veterans preference for public employment.

The bill also encourages military base commanders to work with the Department of Education to promote charter schools on military bases.

And yet another thing this bill will do is waive out-of-state tuition fees for veterans who live out of Florida but are enrolled in a Florida college or university.

An estimated 1.5 million veterans live in Florida. That includes 61,000 active-duty personnel and 12,000 active National Guard members.

According to the Palm Beach Post, the in-state tuition breaks granted veterans is expected to cost Florida taxpayers $11.7 million in 2013-14.

"Today we pass an extraordinarily substantive bill," Senate President Don Gaetz said on Tuesday after the vote made it official.

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Chris Joseph
Contact: Chris Joseph