April 22, 2022 Updated 12:36 P.M. ET
LAKE BUENA VISTA (FLV) – Some news outlets are reporting that residents need to vote in order for Florida lawmakers to strip Disney of its self-governing powers. But one lawmaker said the decision does not go through voters.
Florida lawmakers approved a bill that dismantles six special districts, including the Reedy Creek Improvement District. The 1967 Reedy Creek Improvement Act allows Disney to govern itself in Walt Disney World on things like building codes, zoning, and electricity.
The bill now moves to Gov. Ron DeSantis for approval.
The outlet WDW News Today and Theme Park Insider reported that Reedy Creek Improvement District residents need to vote in order for the law to take effect. They cite Florida law which says special districts that are dissolved through a special act must be approved by a majority of the resident electors of the district.
Reedy Creek Improvement District has fewer than 100 residents in the two cities of Lake Buena Vista and Bay Lake, according to WDW News Today.
But Rep. Randy Fine, the bill’s sponsor, said that law does not apply to the legislation Florida lawmakers passed Thursday.
“There’s a provision that says created or dissolved by special act,” Fine said. “This is not a special act. This is a general bill. This doesn’t apply. There is no election required.”
Fine said there are six special districts, including Reedy Creek, that are unconstitutional because they were established before Florida’s Constitution in 1968. Under the bill, those districts can return to the legislature with updates in order to be reestablished.
These independent special districts have until June 1, 2023 to become reestablished by the legislature to avoid being dissolved. It’s unclear whether the legislature would even vote to reestablish the Reedy Creek Improvement District after the “culture war” with Disney.
Gov. Ron DeSantis announced lawmakers would vote to repeal the district after Disney came out against the Parental Rights in Education Act falsely named the “Don’t Say Gay Bill” by left-wing propagandists.
DeSantis and other Republicans were staunch supporters of the new act that bans teachers from instructing children as young as 5 about sexual orientation. Disney came out against the legislation and vowed to have it “repealed.”
“When you poke the bear or you kick the bees nest, sometimes issues come out,” Fine said Tuesday in committee. “And I think that when the bees nest got kicked, based on how a guest in our state chose to comport itself, I think what ended up happening was the idea of special districts were taken a look at.”
Some people have expressed concerns about debt shifting to surrounding counties if the special district were dissolved. Fine said the Reedy Creek improvement district has incurred about $1.1 billion in debt.
“So what you’re essentially doing is you’re going to shift the burden of all of that debt and impact the bond rating of all of those municipalities and counties by dissolving,” said Democrat Representative Robin Bartleman Tuesday.
Those municipalities and counties would also be responsible for paying for services including power, water, roads and fire protection. But Fine said there are benefits.
“It would be transferred to the municipalities,” Fine said. “So would the tax revenues. You get the negatives and the positives.”
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