Gov. Ron DeSantis was in Ponte Vedra on Friday, June 4, to sign three pieces of military- and veteran-related legislation at American Legion Post 233.
During his presentation, he also took an opportunity to address the budget, the COVID-19 response and hackers attempting to steal unemployment benefits.
“Florida is the most military- and veteran-friendly state in the nation,” DeSantis said. “In my time as governor, we have worked hard to serve those who have served our country by making investments in military bases, schools around those bases and programs that serve veterans and their families.”
Under House Bill 429, the state Department of Education will establish a Purple Star Campus Program to identify schools that support military-connected children and demonstrate a commitment to provide critical transition supports to military families.
The legislation recognizes that “students from military families experience academic and social-emotional challenges as they relocate to new schools due to a parent’s change in duty station.”
To mitigate these challenges, the schools in the program would designate a military liaison to support families, post resources for military students and families on their websites, offer a student-led transition program, expand relevant staff training opportunities and reserve seats for military-connected students to ensure school choice opportunities.
House Bill 435 helps identify apprenticeships, internships and fellowships for servicemembers in their final 180 days in uniform. It allows them to gain work experience while maintaining their military salaries and benefits as they prepare to make the transition to the civilian workplace.
Senate Bill 922 authorizes state and political subdivisions to waive certain postsecondary educational requirements for employment for eligible servicemembers and veterans. It also enhances point preferences for veterans and their family members when a numerically based selection process is used for hiring.
In addition to signing the bills, DeSantis has approved about $26 million for the governor’s share of the CareerSource Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act funding. Of that, $7 million would directly benefit veterans and military spouses.
“These $7 million in funds will provide targeted, in-demand employment opportunities through career training and support services to active-duty military spouses and veterans facing barriers to employment,” DeSantis said.
He specifically mentioned those who were homeless or disabled.
In reference to the $101.5 billion budget, which DeSantis signed two days prior, the governor called Florida “the lowest per-capita-tax state in the country.”
“Yet, if you look, our infrastructure is better than these high-tax-states,” he said.
He touted provisions addressing infrastructure, K-12 education and $1,000 bonuses for each law enforcement officer, firefighter and first responder.
He added that the budget provides $28 million for Florida’s military families and support of the military presence in the Sunshine State. This includes: $2 million for the Florida Defense Support Task Force, $1.6 million for the defense infrastructure program, $7.2 million for armory maintenance, $2 million for military base protection, $4.1 million for National Guard members seeking higher education degrees and $11 million to support scholarships for children and spouses of deceased and disabled veterans.
DeSantis also took issue with the CDC’s sailing orders governing cruise ships, which he called “administrative overreach.”
The CDC has issued a “Framework for Conditional Sailing Order” following months during which cruise ships have been forbidden to sail.
“They will issue these fiats that have no basis in science and certainly no legislative authority for them to be doing this,” he said.
The state has filed suit against the federal government and the CDC as a result.
“They literally said if you’re sunbathing on a cruise ship, you have to wear a mask,” DeSantis said. “Really? Come on. I mean, give me a break.”
DeSantis also addressed the problem of people creating false identities to steal unemployment benefits.
“This has been a constant issue,” he said, “because people realize that there’s an ability to get a lot of money.”
He added that Florida has prevented the theft of “billions of dollars” and suggested that states simply awarding benefits to everyone who signs up without verification have lost “tens of billions” of dollars.