Governor Rick Scott today visited the Armed Forces Military Museum in Largo to highlight several pieces of legislation that benefit Florida's 1.6 million veterans and 58,000 active-duty military stationed in Florida.
Governor Scott applauded new legislation that financially helps military families by cutting property taxes for deployed servicemembers and allowing certain military spouses to begin working sooner after being transferred to Florida. Other bills included in today's bill signing ceremony increase outdoor recreational opportunities for Gold Star parents and injured war veterans.
In addition, the ongoing legacy of Florida's veterans will be recognized in the Florida Veterans Hall of Fame to be created at the Florida State Capitol Building.
"Florida continues to be one of the most military friendly states in the nation, and the legislation I am signing today continues that proud tradition. As a veteran myself, I am proud that our state understands the importance of supporting the members of our military and their families, both during their time of service, as well as afterward," Governor Scott said. "The servicemen and women of our Armed Forces, Florida National Guard and reserve units deserve our gratitude and respect for defending the freedoms we as Americans enjoy."
House Bill 1319, Certificates and Licenses for Certain Health Care Practitioners, allows military spouses who are licensed health care professionals to begin working sooner after they relocate to Florida. When active duty members of the Armed Forces are transferred to Florida military bases, their spouses often cannot begin working until they receive the appropriate professional licenses, causing a financial hardship on military families. This legislation allows military spouses who are licensed health care practitioners in other states to receive a temporary Florida license while they wait for a permanent license.
Temporary certificates issued to physicians who practice in areas of critical need are named in honor of the late Rear Admiral LeRoy Collins Jr., former executive director of the Florida Department of Veterans' Affairs. Admiral Collins, who passed away last year, graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and served in the United States Navy and Navy Reserve for 34 years, retiring as a two-star Admiral. Before his death, he advocated for the legislation and worked with former state Senator Durell Peaden and Terry Meek, executive director of the Florida Council of Medical School Deans, to lay the groundwork for the bill. Jane Collins, wife of Admiral Collins, and their family also attended today's ceremony.
Other bills highlighted today by Governor Scott, Lt. Governor Carroll and legislators honor active-duty servicemembers and veterans in the following ways:
* House Bill 95 -- State Parks
The bill honors Gold Star parents with free lifetime entrance into all of Florida's 160 state parks. Parents of fallen members of the U.S. Armed Forces, National Guard or reserve components will receive a free lifetime annual entrance pass, as will surviving spouses and parents of law enforcement officers and firefighters who died in the line of duty.
Free lifetime entrance to state parks is also available to veterans with service-related disabilities, and discounts are available to those who currently serve or have served in the United States Armed Forces. For more information, visit http://floridastateparks.org/thingstoknow/annualpass.cfm.
* House Bill 663 -- State Forests
The bill honors the service of injured war veterans by providing special outdoor recreational opportunities for them. The Division of Forestry will designate one or more areas of state forests as "Wounded Warrior Special Hunt Areas." With funding from the Friends of Florida State Forests Program, all active duty members and veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces with combat-related injuries will now have access to specialized hunting areas that are specially adapted to assist their needs.
* House Bill 465 -- Veteran's Hall of Fame
The Florida Department of Veterans' Affairs (FDVA) will design and manage the Florida Veterans Hall of Fame to be located inside the Florida State Capitol Building on the Plaza Level. The Governor and the Cabinet will select the nominees to be inducted based on recommendations from FDVA. Each veteran selected will have his or her name placed on a plaque in the Hall of Fame. A formal induction ceremony will coincide with the annual commemoration of Veterans' Day.
* House Bill 1141 -- Ad Valorem Tax Exemption for Deployed Service Members
Authorized by the constitutional amendment approved by Florida voters in November 2010, this legislation provides an additional homestead exemption on property taxes for deployed service members who were on active duty outside the U.S. in the previous year. The exemption is based on the number of days the servicemember was deployed, and all deployed members of U.S. military, including Coast Guard, National Guard and the reserve units, are eligible.
Later today, Governor Scott will meet with members of the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society at Naval Air Station Jacksonville to discuss the bills and benefits to Florida's military, veterans and their families.
For veteran benefit information and assistance, visit the Florida Department of Veterans' Affairs online at www.FloridaVets.org or call (850) 487-1533.