April 21, 2022

Florida Legislature Passes Bill to Strip Disney of Self-Governing Powers

Walt Disney World's Magic KIngdom in Central Florida (@waltdisneyworld, Instagram)
Walt Disney World's Magic KIngdom in Central Florida (@waltdisneyworld, Instagram)

By Lydia Nusbaum

April 21, 2022 Updated 2:05 P.M. ET

TALLAHASSEE (FLV) – The Florida legislature approved a bill to take away the Walt Disney Company’s power to govern itself.

The Florida House of Representatives approved the bill 70 to 38 Thursday afternoon. The vote took place amid chaos heard on the House floor from Democrats and activists screaming in protest to the redistricting bill that passed minutes prior. 

The bill dismantles 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 passed out of the Senate 23 to 16 Wednesday. 

Republican state Senator Jennifer Bradley carried the bill in the Senate that would dismantle six special districts that they claim are unconstitutional, including the Reedy Creek Improvement District. 

“Some of the districts have incredibly sweeping powers such that a single company could start construction on a nuclear reactor,” Bradley said on the Senate floor. “At any other time that would not be controversial to say we need to stop and have a little oversight over this process.”

Democrats call the legislation “retaliatory” after the company spoke out against the Parental Rights in Education Law. 

“Why are we putting the knee on the neck of the mouse? It’s ridiculous. It’s nothing short of extortion. It’s nothing short of bullying,” said Democrat Senator Janet Cruz on the Senate floor. 

Republican Representative Randy Fine sponsors the House version of the two-page bill

“Not only have we allowed this independent special district to be created, but we have given it extraordinary powers that other special districts do not have,” Fine said. 

Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Tuesday that he expanded the call for a special session to include dismantling some special districts on top of the original redistricting legislation lawmakers are tackling. 

Republican lawmakers began discussions to repeal the improvement 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.” 

Other Democrats were concerned about debt shifting on surrounding counties if the special district is 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. 

The bill does not only affect the Reedy Creek Improvement District. Representative Fine said there are six special districts, including Reedy Creek, that are unconstitutional because they were established before Florida’s Constitution in 1968. These improvement districts can return to the legislature with updates to become reestablished. 

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