Florida Governor Rick Scott Salutes Veterans, Touts New Laws

Jul 6, 2011

The following article was published in The Sunshine News on July 6, 2011:

Gov. Rick Scott Salutes Veterans, Touts New Laws

By Gary Rohrer

A day after Floridians celebrated the Fourth of July, Gov. Rick Scott embarked on a tour of the state to draw attention to new laws he signed last month for the state’s 1.6 million military veterans, 58,000 active duty members and their families.

The new laws provide tax breaks for service members, allow spouses of active duty members to receive temporary state health-care licenses, and set up a Florida Veterans Hall of Fame in the Capitol. Scott also touted new laws that designate certain areas of state forests as “special hunt areas” for active duty military members as well as veterans, and give parents of those who have died during their service free lifetime passes to state parks.

Scott, a U.S. Navy veteran, held a bill-signing ceremony Tuesday at the Armed Forces Military Museum in Largo, then headed to the Jacksonville Naval Air Station for a “meet and greet” with the Navy Marine Corps Relief Society.

Ceremonial bill-signing is meant to highlight veterans’ bills package Scott pushed during the 2011 sessionHide

“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,” Scott said.

As of Jan. 31, there were 5,082 service members in Florida deployed overseas. Starting this year, they will see an additional homestead exemption for their property based on the number of days out of the year they spent on missions overseas.

HB 1141 is expected to save deployed military personnel $2.8 million in property taxes this year, with $1.3 million coming from school taxes and $1.5 million coming from nonschool taxes. By the 2014-2015 fiscal year, the savings from the law are expected to rise to $3.7 million, according to an analysis of the bill conducted by Florida House staffers.

Another bill, HB 1319, allows spouses of military members who have a health care practitioner license in another state to receive a temporary license. Lawmakers who pushed the bill through said that the lag time in getting a license was causing hardship on military families that were recently transferred to a base in Florida from elsewhere in the country.

After Largo, the governor headed to the Jacksonville Naval Air Station for a “meet and greet” with the Navy Marine CorpsHide

Scott originally targeted the Department of Veterans Affairs for cuts in his initial budget proposal, wanting to nearly halve its budget. His initial budget called for the DVA to be funded at $45.5 million, which would have been a 44 percent decrease from last year’s $81.37 million budget. Most of the cuts were to come from privatizing several veterans’ homes.

Ultimately, the DVA came away with a budget that was $16,275 more than the previous year. DVA communications director Steve Murray called it a “continuation budget.”

“This was primarily a continuation budget aimed at providing a high level of service for our veterans, their families and survivors,” Murray said after Scott signed the budget in May.

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