New laws have allowed hundreds of soldiers and veterans to maintain their professional licenses in Florida even as deployments sent them overseas, according to state officials.
G.W. Harrell, executive director of the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation, told state representatives Wednesday that changes put in place in 2017 have allowed more military personnel to remain in good professional standing for work in Florida.
A total of 349 licenses have been issued to veterans, their spouses or surviving spouses since the change took effect in July 2017. That includes 112 construction contractors, 140 real estate professionals and even 22 veterinarians.
And fees waived for military personnel and their families also saved about $198,000.
A new law waiving specific requirements for veterans trained as part of their military service has seen less utilization since its implementation in July. The state department has received just five applications requesting a waiver of fees while practicing a profession, Harrell said.
The information came during a House Local, Federal & Veterans Affairs Subcommittee meeting on Wednesday.
State officials updated lawmakers on the progress of laws passed to incentivize military personnel staying in Florida by easing a transition to the private sector.
State Rep. Bobby Payne, a Palatka Republican, said several laws passed since 2015 have aimed to encourage veterans to maintain their long-term residence in Florida.
That has included professional services as well as waiving education costs for schools and colleges not otherwise covered by the Department of Defense.
“We have been proactive not only in education but areas of importance to let veterans build a future in Florida,” Payne said.
Amy Topol, director of the Division of Consumer Services, said the state made a big push in the area of renewal fees, particularly for active duty military members but also for veterans up to two years after an honorable discharge.
The agency’s website has established a veterans section to better inform eligible individuals of the available waivers.