- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 11, 2014

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - The Florida Legislature on Tuesday passed the “Florida GI” bill that supporters say will help the state become the most “military friendly” in the nation.

Gov. Rick Scott said he will sign the bill into law.

“I’m excited that we care about our military,” said Scott.

A key part of the bill would offer a tuition break to honorably discharged veterans regardless of when they moved to the state.

The measure also includes college scholarships for National Guard members and sets aside money to renovate armories and acquire land adjacent to existing military installations.

“To show our gratitude for their unwavering commitment and sacrifice, the Florida Legislature today finalized our commitment to make our state the most military friendly in the nation,” said Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville.

Florida has roughly 1.5 million veterans, and there is an estimated 61,000 active military personnel stationed in the state.

The tuition break, which would cost an estimated $12 million, would ensure that veterans would pay the in-state tuition rate for college.

The bill also would waive professional licensing fees up to five years after a veteran is discharged.

The legislation also includes nearly $7.5 million to acquire land near military bases in Panama City, Jacksonville and MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa. There is $12.5 million to help renovate National Guard armories.

“We have heard from military communities across our state who let us know Florida can do more to celebrate the service and sacrifice of our military and veterans,” said Sen. Thad Altman, R-Melbourne and the main Senate sponsor.

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