DeSantis OKs FL State Guard expansion — controlled by the governor; benefits for military veterans
Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed legislation expanding his Florida State Guard from its existing strength of 400 members to 1,500 members, one of a raft of military-related bills he approved on Friday as the Memorial Day holiday looms.
DeSantis persuaded the Legislature last year to revive the State Guard, moribund since the end of World War II, citing Congress’ refusal to allow expansion of the Florida National Guard. Unlike the National Guard, which the president can mobilize, DeSantis alone controls the State Guard.
The $108 million Guard’s purpose is “to protect and defend the people of Florida from all threats to public safety and to augment all existing state and local agencies,” the legislation (HB 1285) says.
Although housed within the state Department of Military Affairs, it is intended to operate with complete autonomy.
“All members of the specialized unit are vested with the authority to bear arms, detect, and apprehend while activated,” the law says, but adds that only members certified as law enforcement officers “are authorized to have the same law enforcement authority as the law enforcement agency in conjunction with which they are working when activated.”
The governor’s press office announced the bill signings through a press release. Military veterans (1.5 million live here) are a priority for the governor, himself a U.S. Navy veteran.
DeSantis also signed:
- SB 732 establishing the Collegiate Purple Star Campuses Program, wherein state college and university campuses can help vets secure educations.
- SB 274, the “Pathway for Military Combat Medics Act,” providing veterans with nursing college credit for combat medic training.
- HB 139, creating an Office of Veteran Licensure Services to help veterans and spouses earn health care licenses.
- HB 485, creating a Division of Long-term Care to supervise veterans’ adult day health care programs.
- HB 635, creating a Veterans Dental Care Grant Program supplementing services offered through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
- SB 574, making it easier for service members to break civilian rental agreements if they become eligible for subsidized military housing.
- HB 621, creating a $75,000 death benefit for active-duty service members killed while performing their official duties and $25,000 if killed while on active duty but not performing official duties.