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Tampa airport grants free parking to disabled veterans before new bill even passes


Disabled veterans will not have to wait for the Legislature to pass a new law to get free parking at Tampa International Airport.

Airport officials have already changed their policies to now allow any driver with a special disabled veterans license plate issued by the state to park for free up to a week.

The move comes after the Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau reported that the Florida Legislature was considering a bill to make all airports give disabled veterans free parking, which some airports already provide as a courtesy. Some legislators thought they had already provided that in a law passed earlier this year. But some veterans with the disabled license plate reported that they were still being denied the free parking by airports that were citing a loophole that exempted them from the law. The law only allowed disabled veterans with ramps and lifts to have the free parking. Disabled veterans without that equipment were being charged full price for parking by many airports.

Florida has about 41,000 veterans who have the special disable veteran license plate.

Even with Tampa International Airport’s policy change, the bill to force airports to give the break on parking is headed for a pair of committee hearings this week in Tallahassee. On Tuesday, State Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, will present her bill (SB 222) to the Senate Community Affairs Committee. An identical bill (HB 235), sponsored by Rep. Ken Roberson, R-Punta Gorda, goes before the House Economic Affairs Committee on Thursday.

Disabled veterans license plates can only be obtained by drivers if they can prove they have a 100 percent disability designation by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and can show they were honorably discharged.