Senate Considers Key Legislation to Support
Active Duty Military, Veterans, and Their Families
The Florida Senate today celebrated Florida National Guard Day at the Capitol by considering several pieces of legislation designed to help solidify Florida’s reputation as the friendliest state in the nation for active duty military, veterans and their families. Led by Senate President Bill Galvano (R-Bradenton) and Senator Tom Wright (R-New Smyrna Bach), Chair of the Senate Committee on Military and Veterans Affairs and Space, the Senate honored the Florida National Guard, as well as Senators and Senate Professional Staff who have served in the Unites States Armed Forces.
“The Florida National Guard has a long, proud history, from the first militia in St. Augustine to the 21,000 men and women who have been called to serve overseas in the Global War on Terror. We are so pleased to welcome and honor our Adjutant General, Major General James Eifert and several members of the Florida National Guard to thank them for their contributions to our state and nation,” said President Galvano. “My Senate colleagues and I are committed to enacting policies that support our National Guard and keep Florida the number one state for all active duty members of our armed forces, veterans, and their families.”
“When Floridians are facing some of the most challenging times, the National Guard is there at a moment’s notice to help residents and visitors in need. We are so grateful for their courageous service to our state, particularly during the recent hurricane seasons,” said Senator Wright. “We are working diligently to ensure Florida retains our great reputation as the Welcome Home State and are honored that so many of our nation’s finest choose to call Florida home.”
Formally recognizing today as “Florida National Guard Day in Florida,” the Senate adopted Senate Resolution 1926 by Senator Wright. This week, the Senate will also consider the following pieces of legislation.
Senate Bill (SB) 7010, Open Government Sunset Review, Servicemembers and the Spouses and Dependents of Servicemembers
SB 7010 amends s. 119.0171(5)(k), Florida Statutes, to save from repeal the current exemption for the contact information of servicemembers and their families. Specifically, the exemption protects from public inspection and copying identification and location information of current or former active duty servicemembers who served after September 11, 2001, for the United States Armed Forces, a reserve component of the Armed Forces, or the National Guard.
SB 662, Education and the Military
SB 662, sponsored by Senator Wright, gives greater flexibility to students from military families who are transitioning to new schools. The legislation considers a student a resident of the school district at the point in time in which the parent is transferred or pending transfer to a military installation within the state rather than within the district, for purposes of enrollment and preferential treatment in special programs.
SB 1074 AND Senate Joint Resolution (SJR) 1076 Surviving Spouse Ad Valorem Tax Reduction
SJR 1076, by Senator Wright, proposes an amendment to the Florida Constitution to allow the homestead property tax discount for disabled veterans to transfer to a veteran’s surviving spouse upon the death of the veteran, provided the veteran had received the discount. The discount is available for veterans aged 65 or older who have permanent, combat-related disabilities.
SB 1074, by Senator Wright, is the implementing legislation for SJR 1076 and takes effect on the effective date of the amendment to the State Constitution proposed by SJR 1076, or a similar joint resolution with substantially the same specific intent and purpose.
SB 294, Crimes Against Veterans
SB 294, by Senator Wright, creates the “Florida Veterans Protection Act,” which amends the “White Collar Crime Victim Protection Act” to punish a person who obtains or attempts to obtain $50,000 or more by committing an aggravated white collar crime that victimizes 10 or more veterans. Committing this act is a first degree felony ranked in level 9 of the offense severity ranking chart of the Criminal Punishment Code (Code). Additionally, a person convicted of an aggravated white collar crime may pay a fine of $500,000 or double the value of the monetary gain or loss, whichever is greater. This person is also liable for all court costs and must make restitution to each victim of the crime.
SB 372, Post Secondary Education for Military Personnel
SB 372, by Senator Tom Lee (R-Brandon) promotes uniformity in the application of military training and education toward postsecondary credit or career education hours by public postsecondary educational institutions and establishes a fee waiver for active duty members and honorably discharged veterans of the United States Armed Forces.
SB 604, Service Member Civil Relief Act
SB 604, by Senator Aaron Bean (R-Fernandina Beach) amends child welfare statutes to protect the rights of a parent, custodian, or legal guardian who, because of his or her military service, must be absent from his or her child or from child-welfare-related court proceedings.
The Senate passed the following bills during last week during its sitting on Wednesday, February 26, 2020.
SB 936, Disability Retirement Benefits
SB 936, by Senator George Gainer (R-Panama City), amends certification requirements for a veteran to establish a proof of disability to receive a disability retirement benefit under the Florida Retirement System (FRS). Specifically, the bill allows a member of the FRS who is receiving care at a federal Veterans Health Administration facility to offer certification by two of that facility’s physicians as proof of the member’s total and permanent disability, regardless of where the physician is licensed. Current law requires a member to receive certification from physicians licensed in Florida or the state in which the member works.
House Bill 61: Adoption Benefits
House Bill 61, sponsored in the Senate by Senator Bean, unanimously passed the Florida Senate. The legislation allows military veterans and service members who adopt a child through the state child welfare system to receive a one-time benefit of $5,000, or $10,000 for the adoption of a child with special needs. This legislation aims to increase adoptions in Florida by expanding the State Employee Adoption Incentive Program to include veterans and service members, as well as certain other-personal-service (temporary) state employees.