PALM VALLEY, Fla. – Gov. Ron DeSantis had somewhat of a homecoming Friday as he brought his family to St. Johns County to sign three new Florida bills into law, each designed to support military members, their families and those who recently served who are trying to re-enter the civilian workforce.
DeSantis was joined by veterans and lawmakers at the American Legan post in Palm Vally, only a few miles from where DeSantis lived before he moved into the governor’s mansion.
The first bill -- HB 429: Purple Heart Campuses -- benefits military-connected children, who are often asked to move to a new community every few years -- which can be challenging. DeSantis said the state is making resources to help military dependents excel in school.
“The (schools) bill recognizes that under normal circumstances, a military-connected child can expect to move six to nine times from kindergarten through their high-school graduation,” DeSantis said.
Designated schools will, in part, designate a staff “military liaison,” offer programs to help military-connected students transition into the schools and offer training for staff members on issues related to military students.
The second bill (HB 435) establishes a skill bridge program for service members as they transition from any of the state’s 21 military installations and into civilian life. It would fund workforce training during the soldier’s or sailor’s last 180 days of service.
The third new law (SB 922) will allow for certain post-secondary college requirements to be waived for about 200,000 eligible servicemembers and veterans and enhances preferences for military personnel and their families.
DeSantis said Florida’s Career Source board will vote next Wednesday to approve its annual budget for workforce funding. The governor said he will recommend that the 15% of that money that he controls go directly to supporting veterans.
“We are going to be able to use these funds to do a lot of stuff to help veterans. Housing assistance, financial counseling, access to military benefits, mental health and substance abuse counseling, transportation and childcare services,” DeSantis said. “I think it yet again shows that Florida is here to stand with the men and women who stood by us.”
DeSantis also mentioned that the record $101.5 billion budget he signed earlier in the week includes $50 million to construct two new Florida National Guard armories, joking that one of which is in the Zephyrhills’ district of Senate President Wilton Simpson.
“We’re happy with that,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis brought his wife, Casey, and two of his three young children along for the bill signing, saying he might take them to see the Ponte Vedra Beach house where the family live when their first two children were born.
He also lamented that if he kept the house he owned when he was elected governor rather than selling it when they moved to Tallahassee, they’d be much better off, given how much home prices have gone up in the last 18 months.
“So we sold the house (and) made a lot of money, but if I had just left it vacant ... I mean, everything’s going up so much. I mean, we’re totally priced out of the market,” DeSantis said.