The Florida Legislature, on Feb. 24, passed legislation that will allow disabled veterans to park at all airports in the state free of charge, reported the Miami Herald. The legislation passed unanimously and will soon cross the desk of Gov. Rick Scott. Ex-servicemembers who wish to take advantage this proposed law would have to acquire special-issue disabled veteran license plates. Additionally, the parking would only be free for week-long time spans. This is the legislature's second attempt to give local veterans free parking at local airports.
"It's just another bill to make Florida the friendliest state in the nation for veterans," State Rep. Ken Roberson, R-Port Charlotte, one of the 115 legislators who passed the legislation, said in an interview with the Herald.
According to the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs, 1.6 million veterans live in the state. It is also home to approximately 41,000 former military members with disabled veteran license plates.
Taking another shot
Last year, Gov. Scott signed into law a bill that ostensibly granted ex-servicemembers free parking privileges at metered parking lots throughout the county, reported the Tampa Bay Times. However, area airports, all of which are designated independent districts and invulnerable to local law, refused to allow veterans to park for free. Sarasota County Marine veteran Lou Hockel experienced this firsthand when he attempted to park free of charge at Tampa International Airport.
"They told me, 'We don't have to honor that,'" he said in an interview the Times.
Spokespeople for the transportation hub said it only provided free parking to disabled individuals who drove vehicles with specialized equipment such as wheelchair lifts or ramps.
In light of Hockel's ordeal, state legislators in November of last year moved quickly to introduce stronger legislation that would apply to airports. State Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, volunteered to sponsor the new bill, called Senate Bill 222.
"We're going to fix that," she told the Times. "We should be able to give them the well-earned privilege of some free parking for what they have sacrificed for us."
The legislation quickly passed through the Florida House of Representatives and the State Senate, and now awaits Gov. Scott's signature. If signed, the law would go into effect July 1. Tampa International Airport has already changed its own policy. Disabled veterans can now park at the facility for free.