TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Ron DeSantis signed several veteran-friendly bills from the 2020 Florida Legislative Session into law. Here is a summary of those changes:
HB 171 – Postsecondary Education for Certain Military Personnel: The act requires the Board of Governors and State Board of Education to adopt a uniform set of rules to award academic credit for college degrees and technical training certification based on service members’ and veterans’ prior military training and experience. The newly enacted legislation helps veterans and members on active duty to achieve their degrees quicker and without having to take unnecessary course requirements.
HB 205 – Unlawful Use of Uniforms, Medals or Insignia – Effective Oct. 1, 2020, the act adds a provision to an existing law on stolen valor that misusing a military uniform or decorations for the purposes of obtaining employment or seeking election to a paid public office is now a violation of law.
HB 877 – Ad Valorem Tax Discount for Spouses of Certain Deceased Veterans Who Had Permanent, Combat-Related Disabilities. Proposes amending the State Constitution to authorize the surviving spouse of a deceased combat-related disabled veteran to carry over certain discounts on ad valorem taxes on homestead property until the surviving spouse remarries or sells or otherwise disposes of the property.
HB 879 – Surviving Spouse Ad Valorem Tax Reduction. The bill implements HB 877 by placing the legislation as a proposed Constitutional Amendment before Florida voters on the November 2020 ballot. If voted favorably, the amendment extends the homestead tax exemption of veterans 65 and older with combat-related disabilities who pass to the surviving spouse. At present, the exemption ends upon the death of the eligible veteran.
HB 1249 – Transfer of Tax Exemption for Veterans: The act adds a provision to an existing law requiring that veterans who were honorably discharged with a service-connected total and permanent disability or their surviving spouses who are entitled to receive ad valorem exemptions on property taxes for one property, may receive a pro-rated reimbursement of taxes paid on any property they buy between Jan. 1 and Nov. 1 of any year.
SB 294 – Florida Veterans Protection Act: Gov. Ron DeSantis signed Senate Bill 294, the Florida Veterans Protection Act, into law Sept. 4, 2020. The legislation will help protect veterans by adding the victimization of 10 or more veterans as an aggravated white-collar crime. The Florida Veterans Protection Act adds veterans to the existing “White Collar Crime Victim Protection Act.” The law, which goes into effect on Oct. 1, already applies to victimization of 10 or more elderly individuals.
HB 1135 – License Plates: Gov. Ron DeSantis signed House Bill 1135 into law on Sept. 18, 2020. The bill introduces 32 new specialty license plates onto the road, including the Gadsden Flag license plate, with annual use fees benefiting the non-profit Florida Veterans Foundation, Inc. The Foundation is the direct-support organization of the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs, which provides educational and outreach programs that help veterans.
General Appropriations Act (HB 5001) – The $92.2 billion budget provides a three percent pay raise for state workers, effective Oct. 1, 2020.
Highlights within the appropriation for the Florida Department of Veterans’ Affairs:
Contractual Highlights within the FDVA Budget:
Florida Veterans Legal Helpline – $500,000
University of South Florida Alternative Treatment Options for Veterans – $200,000
K9s For Warriors – $600,000
Five Star Veterans Homeless Housing and Integration – $250,000
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