FORT WALTON BEACH, Fla. (WKRG) — In a county dedicated to military service, Governor DeSantis signed six bills into law to help military members and their families.

The bills range from financial support for education to businesses run by military families.

Gov. DeSantis signed the bills inside the veteran-owned Props Brewery and taproom in Fort Walton Beach.

Bills signed Thursday, June 9:

  • HB 45 provides tuition assistance for disabled veterans to eliminate their higher education costs.
    • “That is going to expand educational opportunities for disabled veterans by making sure they get tuition assistance because oftentimes the availability of assistance through the GI Bill is not sufficient to fully cover their tuition. We’re going to close the gap with this bill, and this is going to make a big difference,” said Gov. DeSantis.
  • SB 430 ensures a smooth school transition for children of active-duty military families.
    • “To make sure that the children of active duty service members are able to transition in terms of education appropriately, with seamless school placement, enrollment, records transfer and verification of graduation authorities with requirements,” said Gov. DeSantis. “We don’t want somebody to be transferred from Virginia or Texas or California and then get mired in bureaucracy and red tape and so this is helping us do better in that regard. And I think that’ll be a relief for a lot of military families who are bringing their kids here to go to school to help veterans, as well as military families, find employment.”
  • SB 562 requires the Department of Business and Professional Regulation to expedite license applications of active-duty military spouses.
  • SB 438 expands Florida’s benefits for active duty service members and veterans to include the United States Space Force.
  • SB 514 allows state agencies to substitute military experience and work for postsecondary education.
    • “I think this is really significant to substitute military experience for postsecondary education requirements so that veterans can apply for jobs that they are qualified for and not be hindered just because they don’t have some magic piece of paper which likely would have cost too much anyway,” said Gov. DeSantis. “From a perspective of state agencies, you’d give me somebody that served, you know, eight years. They’re in the Navy or the Marine core, that education is going to be much more beneficial and pertinent than someone that went $100,000 into debt to get a degree in zombie studies. And so we’re recognizing that and we’re expanding opportunity, but also taking this opportunity to enlist people that have a lot to offer our state agencies.”
  • SB 896 waives the degree requirement for a temporary educator certificate for veterans who want to pursue a career in teaching. Florida continues to be the most veteran and military-friendly state in the nation.

The Florida Department of Education and Department of Veteran Affairs commended the governor for signing the bills.

A new initiative for the state is re-establishing a Florida State Guard. Gov. DeSantis spoke about using $10 Million to create the department at Thursday’s press conference. The State Guard will bring in 400 recruits to act similarly to the National Guard in emergency situations.

“You had the federal government imposing these mandates on the military as a whole, but even on the National Guard, which they have some administrative control over,” said Gov. DeSantis. “And so we wanted to make sure we had our guard that could perform similar functions, but that would not be captive to some of these misguided federal mandates.

“They are kicking people out of the military who serve with honor and distinction over these COVID shots and a lot of these people, a lot of these people that they’re kicking out have already recovered from COVID. A lot of them have reasons why they’re not doing the shots, and so they say they have to kick people out to maintain good order and discipline. You are harming good order and discipline, by not standing behind people that have fought for this country, and so I think it’s been a huge mistake and the zeal with which the military has pursued this has been a real head-scratcher to me as a veteran.  

“We viewed it as strategically, an opportunity that if they kick somebody out of the Navy or the Army or the Marine core or the Air Force and they want to be in Florida and continue serving in some capacity, the State Guard would give them the ability to do that,” said Gov. DeSantis. “We’re not gonna have those types of mandates we want people to be able to serve, and so it gives us really an opportunity to have some force multipliers in the state where we have one of the lowest guards to citizen ratios in the country. We’re a large state and we have a lot of need for things like disaster response, unfortunately, and hopefully, we were quiet this summer, but we’re always prepared and we know that this is just a fact of life in Florida. And so when you have those events, you know the guard are some of the main people that we rely on to help people in those situations.”

More than 3,600 bills were presented at Florida 2022 legislative session. Gov. DeSantis is touring the state signing bills in separate counties.