TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — It appears increasingly likely that Florida lawmakers will return as early as next week to strip Disney of some special district powers. The governor continues to speculate that this is happening as anticipation grows in Tallahassee for another special session.
The last nod was during a gathering of the press in Milton. The Republican said the main target is the Reedy Creek Improvement District.
“I think they’re going to hold a special session in a week or two,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said. “I think maybe next week is about a whole bunch of different things — including Disney no longer having self-governing status. Ready!”
Day the previous oneDeSantis said the state would seek to take over the county’s governing board, that their legal privileges would be curtailed and that the company would have to pay off its more than $700 million in debt without risk to taxpayers.
Reedy Creek existed since the late 1960s, allowing Disney to manage nearly 40 square miles of land around the Orlando parks like a county government.
Republican lawmakers voted yes its sunset last year after the company took issue with the Parental Rights in Education Act (HB 1557). This limits the teaching of sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten to the third grade.
State Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, carried the Disney bill last time. He expressed hope that this new law would have far-reaching consequences.
“A private company should not drive public policy. It’s just bad public policy,” Fine said. “The biggest thing that can come out of this is to say that we have a lot of special districts in Florida, but they’re all going to be accountable to the people, not to one private company.”
But will we see this policy before Monday?
Lawmakers are ambivalent. Some told us that there is still work to be done on the background of this bill and that next week’s legislative schedule is too busy for a special session. Others said the legislation was ready and expected it to go to the first committee on Wednesday.
Democrats, meanwhile, said they had no knowledge of Reedy Creek’s plans — only hearsay. State Sen. Shevrin Jones, R-Miami Gardens, said it was another sign that the parties have split in the GOP supermajority.
“There was a time with Democrats and Republicans and the state of Florida really, really worked together,” Jones said. “It’s a pity. It’s sad that at the end of the day, the people who are hurt – who will be hurt by this – are the people of Florida.”