Florida State Guard Confusion

At the Crossroads: The Florida State Guard’s Quest for Identity and Purpose

Over the past month a new bill was introduced in The Florida State Legislature that would improve some functions and definitions of The Florida State Guard (Civilian Agency – Not a State Defense Force). A new bill HB 1551 was introduced on January 8th by Florida State Representatives Mike Giallombardo & Tom Fabricio. It introduced many key elements that would put the Florida State Guard more on par with State Defense Forces, however it stopped short of re-identifying itself as a military entity.

Among the key improvements added into the bill was:

  • Added the term “enlisted volunteer” and “officer” to the ranks of The Florida State Guard. However this new section did not specify if these new identification ranks would clarify if those enlisted volunteers / officers would be under State Military Law which The Florida National Guard operates under – Title XVII Military Affairs and Related Matters, Chapter 250 Military Affairs.
  • The bill elaborates more on the process regarding the fingerprinting aspects & criminal background checks of new members joining The Florida State Guard.
  • Volunteers would be covered by a new protection clause:

c) In any action or proceeding of any nature, civil or criminal, commenced in any court by any person or by the state against any volunteer of the Florida State Guard for any act occurring in that volunteer’s scope of duty, the defendant in such action or proceeding, upon his or her request, may be defended at the expense of the state by a qualified attorney designated by the Department of Legal Affairs. However, this paragraph does not prohibit such defendant from employing his or her own private counsel at the defendant’s own expense.

(d) A defendant may be ordered to state active duty with full active duty compensation for the time his or her presence

is required in defense of such actions or proceedings.

(e) In any such action or proceeding, if the plaintiff dismisses his or her suit, or a verdict or judgment in favor of the defendant is entered, the court shall award costs and reasonable attorney fees incurred by the state and the defendant

in the defense of such action or proceeding.

In essence this would provide volunteers within The Florida State Guard legal protection if they committed any civil or criminal violation in performance of their duties. This would more closely align with US & Florida Military law. So if a member did commit an unlawful act they would be given counsel by the State of Florida, similar to that of a public defender.

However despite these key upgrades a few negative pieces were introduced such as:

  • The bill would remove the requirement that the training standards and programs for  Florida State Guard members be lowered and not on par with The Florida National Guard.
    • The legislation removes this important aspect of The Florida State Guard structure ‘an applicant being considered for placement in a component unit that serves in an active duty capacity within the Florida State Guard must be subject to standards that are no less than the standards required for recruitment, enrollment, and retention in the Florida National Guard.’
    • This is a very odd removal as every State Defense Forces aligns their standards and training to those of their National Guard so when they work side by side they can seamlessly integrate.
    • We believe such a removal would dilute the professionalism of The Florida State Guard & its members.
  • All throughout the bill alterations were made where it would replace the term member with volunteer. Currently Florida State Guard members are paid while on State Active Duty missions or for InActive Duty Training (Weekend Training Drills). We believe this was introduced to refuse to pay these members for their Active Duty and InActive Duty Training time.
  • Another odd alteration to this new legislation would be this passage:

(a) The division may reimburse volunteers of the Florida State Guard for per diem and travel expenses incurred to attend required training or in the course of active service as provided in s. 112.061.

Previously the passage stated ‘(a) the division shall reimburse volunteers of The Florida State Guard…’.

Currently members are reimbursed for travel expenses when traveling from their home to duty station. We believe this alteration would allow for the leadership of The Florida State Guard to deny reimbursement of travel expenses for their volunteers/members.

THEN COMES THE FEBRUARY SUBCOMMITTEE ENHANCEMENTS

However on February 6th, the Infrastructure & Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee cut most alterations from the legislation, only the fingerprinting & criminal background aspects of the bill remained through committee.

So now members are still required to have training programs and standards equivalent to those of The Florida National Guard. We are pleased this was not cut from The Florida State Guard so even though the members of The Florida State Guard are civilian volunteers they are still expected to have the highest level of training and professionalism when on duty.

Also because of the subcommittee’s alterations, members within The Florida State Guard would still be paid for their travel to and from duty, InActive Duty Training, and Active Duty missions. This is another good action on part of the subcomittee.

CONCLUSION

After speaking to many of our contacts and monitoring this legislation we firmly believe there is a great deal of confusion regarding The Florida State Guard. Confusion regarding, should the organization be a military entity or a civilian one, should it continue paying its members, and what will its future interaction be with The Florida National Guard. Due to this we still DO NOT endorse anyone joining The Florida State Guard due to this questionable & fragile structure.

We would urge Florida State Legislators to classify the Florida State Guard as a military entity, and apply the organization to the same military laws and regulations as The Florida National Guard is upheld to.  Also that The Florida State Guard be under the supervision of The Florida Military Department and Adjutant General (Senior National Guard General). This is the same framework that makes other State Defense Force so successful. Without these key amendments we will not endorse joining The Florida State Guard.

The future of The Florida State Guard is highly in doubt as many veterans and veterans organizations have informed us they refuse to serve in such a civilian organization. That many who joined The Florida State Guard during its formation in 2023 have already left to serve in other organizations such as The Georgia State Defense Force. If legislators dont quickly act to firmly establish the identity of The Florida State Guard it could possibly soon cease to exist.


To Read The January 8th Bill -> Click Here

To Read The REVISED February 6th Bill -> Click Here

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