Governor Scott Signs 2012 Legislation to Honor Florida’s Veterans
– Signs SB 922 expanding state benefits to eligible veterans and family members –
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (June 27, 2012) – During a ceremony in the governor’s office surrounded by veterans’ advocates, Governor Rick Scott today signed SB 922 into law, honoring Florida’s more than 1.6 million veterans.
Among the highlights:
The T. Patt Maney Veterans’ Treatment Intervention Act
The legislation authorizes the chief judge of each judicial circuit to establish a Military Veterans and Servicemembers Court Program for veterans and servicemembers who are convicted of a criminal offense and who suffer from a mental illness, traumatic brain injury (TBI), substance abuse disorder, or psychological problem as a result of their military service. Under the Program, a judge may sentence such veterans and servicemembers in a way that addresses the severity of the condition through services targeted to the individual’s needs. The bill also authorizes a court to impose a condition of supervision requiring probationers or community controlees whose crime was committed on or after July 1, 2012, and who is a veteran or servicemember who suffers from a military-related mental illness, TBI, substance abuse disorder, or psychological problem, to participate in a treatment program capable of treating the offender. Finally, the bill adds both felony and misdemeanor pre-trial intervention programs as eligible treatment programs for veterans and service members.
Priority Course Registration for Post 9/11 GI Bill Students
The bill requires Florida State Colleges and Universities that offer priority course registration for any segment of the student population, to provide priority course registration to veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces who are receiving GI Bill educational benefits. Furthermore, the bill encourages all independent colleges and universities to provide priority course registration to the same student population. The spouse or dependent children of the veteran to whom the GI Bill educational benefits have been transferred would also be granted priority course registration.
Florida Veteran Business Enterprise Opportunity Act
The legislation expands the “Florida Service-Disabled Veteran Business Enterprise Opportunity Act” to include certain businesses owned and operated by wartime veterans and renames the act the “Florida Veteran Business Enterprise Opportunity Act.” The bill entitles certain wartime-veteran business owners to vendor preference and other benefits currently available to certified service-disabled veteran business owners. In order to be eligible for the benefits provided under the Florida Veteran Business Enterprise Opportunity Act, a wartime veteran business owner must meet the definition of “wartime veteran” as defined in the bill and meet the certification requirements by the Office of Supplier Diversity within the Department of Management Services.
Purple Heart Day
The legislation designates August 7 of each year as “Purple Heart Day” in Florida. It authorizes the Governor to annually issue a proclamation designating “Purple Heart Day.” The bill also encourages public officials, schools, private organizations, and all residents of the state to commemorate Purple Heart Day and to honor those wounded or killed while serving in any branch of the United States Armed Services. The Purple Heart is our nation’s oldest military decoration. General George Washington first awarded it on August 7, 1782.
Property Tax Exemption for Deployed Servicemembers
The legislation updates the list of military operations that qualify for the deployed service-member homestead tax exemption. It provides for two new qualifying operations – Operation Noble Eagle, which began on September 15, 2001, and Operation Odyssey Dawn, (Libya) which began on March 19, 2011 and ended on October 31, 2011. Currently, the list of qualifying operations includes Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn.
Special Use License Plates
The legislation authorizes the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to issue a special use license plate for a recipient of the Combat Infantry Badge, and creates a Vietnam War Veteran and Korean Conflict Veteran license plate. These special use license plates are to be issued upon application and proof of qualifications and upon payment of the license tax imposed by s. 329.08, F.S. The bill also provides for the issuance of a special use license plate without charge for recipients of the Distinguished Service Cross, Navy Cross, Air Force Cross, or Silver Star. These special use license plates are to be issued upon application and proof of qualifications and without payment of the license tax imposed by s. 329.08, F.S.
“In concert with the leadership of the governor, lieutenant governor, and the Cabinet, the Florida Legislature once again underscored our image as the most veteran-friendly state in the nation,” said Mike Prendergast, executive director of the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs. “As a Navy veteran, the governor understands the importance of supporting our state’s more than 1.6 million veterans, their families and survivors. This new law will bring jobs into the economy and support our returning servicemembers.”
College Credit for Military Training
House Bill 347 was also signed into law. The bill requires Florida State Colleges and Universities to adopt rules and regulations that enable eligible current and former members of the U.S. Armed Forces to earn academic college credit at public postsecondary educational institutions for college-level training and education acquired in the military. The bill requires that the regulations and rules include procedures for credential evaluation and the award of academic college credit, including but not limited to, equivalency and alignment of military course work with appropriate college courses, course descriptions, type and amount of college credit that may be awarded, and the transfer of credit. The American Council on Education has established guidelines to assist schools in implementing this act.
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