(1) All payments, gifts, or grants received pursuant to this section shall be deposited in the State Treasury to the credit of the Insurance Regulatory Trust Fund for the State Fire Marshal Scholarship Grant Program. Such funds shall provide, from grants to the state from moneys raised from public and private sources, scholarships for qualified applicants to the Florida State Fire College as created by s. 633.43.
(2) The Chief Financial Officer shall authorize expenditures from the Insurance Regulatory Trust Fund upon receipt of vouchers approved by the division. All moneys collected from public and private sources pursuant to this section shall be deposited into the trust fund. Any balance in the trust fund at the end of any fiscal year shall remain therein and shall be available for carrying out the purposes of the fund in the ensuing year.
(3) All funds deposited into the Insurance Regulatory Trust Fund shall be invested pursuant to s. 17.61. Interest income accruing to moneys so invested shall increase the total funds available for the purposes for which the trust fund is created.
(4) Funds collected for the State Fire Marshal Scholarship Grant Program, after meeting the costs of the department in carrying out the provisions of this section and the travel expenses of the State Fire Marshal Scholarship Grant Council, shall be available to provide full or partial scholarships for expenses, including tuition, books, other class materials, lodging, meals, and such other items as determined by the council members, for any qualified applicant who, for financial reasons, may not otherwise be able to attend, or whose firefighter unit may be unable to send to, the State Fire College or other educational program which is certified in conjunction with the State Fire College.
(5)(a) The State Fire Marshal Scholarship Grant Program shall be administered by the State Fire Marshal Scholarship Grant Council. The council shall consist of five members appointed by the State Fire Marshal. The Superintendent of the Florida State Fire College shall serve as an ex officio member.
(b) The terms of the council members shall be for a period of 4 years, except the initial members shall be appointed as follows: two members for terms of 4 years, one member for a term of 3 years, one member for a term of 2 years and one member for a term of 1 year. Any vacancy shall be filled for the remainder of the unexpired term.
(c) The membership of the council shall consist of at least one member who for at least 3 years has served as a chief of a municipal, county, or district firefighter unit and one member who is a firefighter with a municipal, county, or district firefighter unit and who is a graduate of the State Fire College.
(d) The council shall elect annually a chair from its membership.
(e) The council shall meet at the State Fire College, or such other site as the State Fire Marshal or chair designates, at the call of the State Fire Marshal, the chair, or at the request of a majority of the members.
(f) The members of the council shall receive no compensation for such services, but shall be reimbursed for travel expenses as provided in s. 112.061.
(6) The State Fire Marshal Scholarship Grant Council shall select as grant recipients the most qualified and deserving applicants from firefighting professionals recommended by the State Fire Marshal or by municipal, county, regional, or district firefighter units or departments.
(7) The criteria and procedures for establishing standards of eligibility shall be recommended by the council to the department. The council shall recommend to the department a rating system upon which to base the approval of scholarship grants. However, to be eligible to receive a scholarship pursuant to this section, an applicant must:
(a) Be a full-time employee or volunteer of a local municipal, county, regional or district firefighter unit;
(b) Have graduated from high school, have earned an equivalency diploma issued by the Department of Education pursuant to s. 1003.435, or have earned an equivalency diploma issued by the United States Armed Forces Institute;
(c) Be accepted for full-time enrollment, with the intent to maintain such enrollment at the Florida State Fire College;
(d) Have the firefighter unit by whom the applicant is employed or for which the applicant is a volunteer, recommend her or him and certify that, because of financial need, the scholarship is necessary for her or him to attend the State Fire College; and
(e) Agree that she or he intends to return to duty with the firefighter unit by whom she or he was recommended, or, by agreement with such unit, that she or he will remain in some capacity relating to the firefighting profession for a period of at least 1 year.
(8) The department may adopt rules to implement this section, including rules detailing the eligibility standards and an approval rating system which are based on financial need, need for additional certified firefighters from the applicant’s community, and the applicant’s employment record.
(9) After selection and approval of an applicant for a grant by the council, payment in the applicant’s name for scholarship funds shall be transmitted from the Insurance Regulatory Trust Fund by the Chief Financial Officer upon receipt of vouchers authorized by the division. If a recipient terminates her or his enrollment during the course of her or his curriculum at the State Fire College, unless excused by the council and allowed to resume training at a later time, any unused portion of the scholarship funds shall be refunded to the trust fund. A recipient who terminates her or his enrollment is not liable for any portion of a scholarship.
(10) The council may accept payments, gifts, and grants of money from any federal agency, private agency, county, city, town, corporation, partnership, or individual for deposit in the Insurance Regulatory Trust Fund to implement this section and for authorized expenses incurred by the council in performing its duties.