Gov. Ron DeSantis said early this month he was “receptive” to discussions around changing a decades-old state law that grants Disney the power to self-govern its Disney World property.
Now, the Florida governor has amended his call for a special session in Tallahassee to reconsider the creation of “independent special districts.”
Currently, Reedy Creek Improvement District runs as its own government, providing fire protection, emergency, utility, and planning services for the property around Disney World.
In his updated proclamation, the governor asserts the Florida Constitution “prohibits special laws granting privileges to private corporations,” and he states “it is necessary to review such independent special districts to ensure that they are appropriately serving the public interest.”
However, renewed interest in Reedy Creek was piqued by Disney’s response to the “Parental Rights in Education” bill, which the governor recently signed into law. Disney joined critics in dubbing the legislation “Don’t Say Gay.”
At the time, State Rep. Spencer Roach (R-North Fort Myers) tweeted that lawmakers had met twice to discuss repealing the 1967 state law that allowed Disney to establish Reedy Creek Improvement District.
In all, Florida has 1.844 special districts. The legislation introduced to enable dissolution of the special districts — HB 3-C and SB 4-C — specifically addresses “any independent special district established by a special act prior to the date of ratification of the Florida Constitution on November 5, 1968. and which was not reestablished, re-ratified, or otherwise reconstituted by a special act or general law after November 5, 28 1968.”
Only 133 of Florida’s special districts were created by special acts before Nov. 5, 1968. Among those districts in addition to Reedy Creek are the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, the Daytona Beach Racing and Recreational Facilities District and the Canaveral Port District in Central Florida, as well as the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority, Tampa Port Authority, the Tampa-Hillsborough County Expressway Authority, the Tampa Sports Authority and several downtown development authorities throughout the state.
The House Bill was submitted by Rep. Randy Fine (R-District 53). Fine, who is from unincorporated Brevard County, on Twitter called Disney “a guest in Florida.”
BREAKING: Disney is a guest in Florida. Today, we remind them. @GovDeSantis just expanded the Special Session so I could file HB3C which eliminates Reedy Creek Improvement District, a 50 yr-old special statute that makes Disney to exempt from laws faced by regular Floridians.
— Rep. Randy Fine (@VoteRandyFine) April 19, 2022
The Senate Bill was submitted by Sen. Jennifer Bradley (R-District 5). Bradley’s district office is in Orange Park and the district includes Marion County and mostly rural Levy, Gilchrist, Dixie, Clay, Union, Bradford, Baker, Columbia, Suwanee and Lafayette counties in the northern part of the state.
Rep. Andrew Learned (D-District 59), who represents part of Hilisborough County and lives in Brandon, came out against the proposed legislative changes.
BREAKING: Governor DeSantis is seeking to turn today’s Special Legislative Session into a full-scale attack on Walt Disney World and Mickey Mouse. This isn’t a joke, this is 2022 and the modern Republican Party.
— Rep. Andrew Learned (@AndrewLearned) April 19, 2022
Former Florida House member Dick Batchelor said, though, that dissolving Reedy Creek would be complicated and, in general, a bad idea.
“There’s no legal reason to challenge Reedy Creek Improvement District,” the Orlando Democrat said. “There is only a political reason and not a very good one — to say to Disney, ‘While you oppose me on a public policy, I will now try to be punitive and punish you.'”
Spectrum News is reaching out to the governor’s office, Disney and Reedy Creek Improvement District for comment.
Other issues to be considered during the special session in May include redistricting of congressional maps and address what it call “arbitrary censorship by social media platforms” and remove theme parks from a social media law signed by DeSantis in 2021.