September 27, 2023


Florida lawmakers on Friday gave closing approval to a proposal to give Gov. Ron DeSantis more control over the future of Disney’s Orlando-area theme parks, the most recent escalation within the Republican chief’s feud with the leisure large.

The GOP-led state Senate voted 26-9 Friday on a invoice to let the state take over the Reedy Creek Improvement District, the federal government physique that has given Disney distinctive powers in Central Florida for greater than half a century. Underneath the invoice, the district’s current board will probably be changed by a five-member board hand-picked by DeSantis.

The measure passed the Republican-controlled House on an 82-31 vote Thursday. It now heads to the desk of DeSantis, who is predicted to signal it.

The newest transfer towards Disney comes a yr after the corporate spoke out against a bill to limit sure classroom instruction about sexual orientation and gender identification. The laws drew a forceful rebuke from Democrats and LGBTQ advocates, who feared the invoice would marginalize LGBTQ college students and lecturers and make them really feel much less secure in faculties. In March of final yr, as outrage towards the laws unfold nationwide, Disney launched a press release vowing to assist get the legislation repealed or struck down by the courts and saying the corporate was “devoted to standing up for the rights and security of LGBTQ+ members of the Disney household, in addition to the LGBTQ+ group in Florida and throughout the nation.”

After signing the bill into law, DeSantis then set his sights on punishing Disney. He referred to as on lawmakers to strip the corporate of its particular governing powers, which they did in a special session final yr, voting to dissolve the Reedy Creek Enchancment District on the finish of Might 2023.

Lawmakers, although, modified course this week and as a substitute voted on a brand new future for Reedy Creek, one which places DeSantis appointees in control of the district’s long-standing powers to tax, construct and borrow cash for tasks round Disney’s huge footprint in Orange and Osceola counties. It additionally renames Reedy Creek because the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District.

Proponents say the adjustments make sure that there won’t be a disruption to the district’s current debt or contracts. The ultimate web page of the 189-page invoice states: “The Reedy Creek Enchancment District isn’t dissolved as of June 1, 2023, however continues in full pressure and impact below its new title.”

The adjustments appeared to fulfill some considerations that the district’s excellent debt, reported at about $1 billion, would fall on Florida taxpayers. Fitch Scores, which put Reedy Creek Enchancment District’s debt on look ahead to a detrimental bond score, advised CNN in a press release that the proposed laws “seems to deal with key uncertainties.”

In a press release to CNN earlier this week, Jeff Vahle, the president of Walt Disney World Resort, mentioned the corporate is “monitoring the development of the draft laws, which is complicated given the lengthy historical past of the Reedy Creek Enchancment District.”

“Disney works below various completely different fashions and jurisdictions around the globe, and whatever the consequence, we stay dedicated to offering the best high quality expertise for the tens of millions of company who go to annually,” Vahle mentioned.

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