TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Veterans living in Florida would get a tuition break as part of a "military friendly" bill that is headed to the desk of Gov. Rick Scott.
The Florida Legislature on Tuesday passed the "Florida GI" bill. The key part of the bill would offer a tuition break to honorably discharged veterans regardless of when they moved to the state. But the measure also includes college scholarships for National Guard members, while also setting aside money to renovate armories and acquire land adjacent to existing military installations in the state.
Backers of the legislation (HB 7015) contend it would make the state the "number one" place for veterans. Florida has roughly 1.5 million veterans, and there is an estimated 61,000 active military personnel stationed in the state.
The bill would also allow the state's DEP to use $7.5 million to buy land around three bases, including Mayport. According to the bill, the land would be bought to protect the bases from "encroachment". That's because, according to lawmakers, bases with lots of development around them could potentially be shut down.
The owner of a restaurant just down the street from Mayport said the land buy is a good thing, even though it stops development.
"We get 50% of our business from the base," he says.
He says if Mayport's sized is reduced, or worse, it'd be very hard to bounce back.
"This area is very poor," he said. "If Mayport closes, I have to close, what choice do I have?"
Governor Scott is expected to sign the bill. It could take effect as early as July 1st.