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Rick Scott Signs Florida GI Bill Into Law

March 30, 2014 - 6:00pm

Tuition breaks for veterans are now a reality in Florida -- on Monday, Gov. Rick Scott signed the Florida GI Bill into law at the National Guard Armory in Panama City.

The bill would allow honorably discharged veterans to pay in-state tuition rates if they choose to attend a state university or college. The bill also includes additional perks for veterans, like money for tuition scholarships for National Guard members.

Giving veterans in-state tuition rates was a chief legislative priority for both Florida Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach, and Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel.

The bill gained unanimous support from the Florida Legislature.

"I am pleased to also sign this legislation that will help our veterans find employment and expand career opportunities for veterans and their spouses," said Scott on Monday. "We are working to be the most military-friendly state in the nation, and this is another step to support our brave men and women who serve our nation.

After signing the bill, the governor also took to Twitter to announce his support for the legislation.

Proud to support our#Veterans this morning by signing HB 7015 in Panama City, he tweeted.

Support for the legislation flooded social media on Monday, with many state legislators praising the governor for signing the bill into law.

My colleagues and I worked very hard to secure this important tuition reduction for our veterans, and I applaud the governor for his support! wrote Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater.

"Thank you@FLGovScott for signing the Florida GI Bill, tweetedFlorida House Majority Leader Steve Crisafulli, R-Merritt Island. This bill will make FL the top 'welcome home' state for our veterans!

The bill also gained support from the Florida Chamber of Commerce, which applauded the legislation for helping to provide education for veterans in Florida.

The Florida Chamber has long-championed the passage of the Florida GI Bill, and the reasons are simple, said Stan Connelly, president and CEO of Gulf Power and board member of the Florida Chamber of Commerce. We want to help ensure veterans have the education and skills for the jobs of today and tomorrow, and job creators throughout Florida want to hire our heroes. Floridas veteran community is a vital part of our state.

According to state officials, there are currently over 1.5 million veterans living in the Sunshine State, including 61,000 active-duty personnel. The impact of military presence in the state adds up to a whopping $73 billion a year, making it the third largest part of Floridas economy behind agriculture and tourism.

The in-state tuition breaks for military veterans will cost taxpayers approximately $12 million in 2013-2014.

Reach Tampa-based reporter Allison Nielsen atAllison@sunshinestatenews.comor follow her on Twitter at @AllisonNielsen.

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