Florida lawmakers Friday gave final approval to changes that would shift control of the Reedy Creek Improvement District from the Walt Disney Co. to Gov. Ron DeSantis.
With Republican senators saying the changes wouldn’t affect the operations of Disney’s theme parks, the Senate voted 26-9 along party lines Friday to pass the measure, which would give DeSantis authority to appoint the district’s five-member Board of Supervisors.
The proposal, which was approved by the House on Thursday, would change the name of the district to the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District. It also would remove parts of the district’s authority, such as the power to potentially construct a nuclear power plant, airport and stadium.
The bill now will go to DeSantis for his expected signature.
The state created the Reedy Creek district in 1967 and essentially gave Disney control over issues such as land use, fire protection and sewer services that are typically handled by local governments.
But at DeSantis’ urging, lawmakers last year decided to dissolve Reedy Creek and five other special districts across the state after Disney angered the governor by opposing a controversial education law. The dissolutions, however, had an effective date of June 1, 2023, which left time for lawmakers to re-establish and revamp the districts.
The vote Friday came at the end of a five-day special legislative session.
Sen. Travis Hutson, a St. Augustine Republican who sponsored this week’s bill, disputed that the changes last year and this year were “retribution” for Disney’s opposition to a law that restricts instruction about gender identity and sexual orientation in schools.
“There are certain things that they got special privileges for some 50 years ago that we’re now relooking at and saying, ‘Should they have those special privileges or be back on the same playing field as others within the state?’” Hutson said.
But Sen. Victor Torres, D-Orlando, called the bill a “power grab” by the governor, as the Senate Rules Committee earlier Friday signed off on the bill.
“This bill is just wanting to show other private companies, ‘If you say something wrong, that I (the governor) don’t like, I’m going to go after you,’” Torres said.
Sen. Linda Stewart, D-Orlando, called the changes “unnecessary” and expressed concern that they could affect plans now before the district’s board.
“There’s two solar farms that are trying to get approval right now, they’re in the planning stages,” Stewart said. “Who’s going to make those approvals?”
Sen. Doug Broxson, R-Gulf Breeze, said Republican lawmakers weren’t “pushed by the governor.”
“We joined with the governor in saying it was Disney’s decision to go from an apolitical, safe 25,000 acres and try to be involved in public policy,” Broxson said.
Republicans also called the latest changes a “fair balance,” imposing accountability and rules as the state rapidly grows.
“If Disney wants to change a theme-park ride, they’re allowed to,” Hutson said. “Where they would go to this district would be to change the zoning. So, if there’s ag land, or open rural next to their theme park and they need to make it commercial or light industrial to expand the park, they would then go in front of this board and ask for permission. So, that’s kind of the function that’s happening with this bill.”
Hutson said the changes could also make the theme parks better suited to withstand natural disasters.
“I would be remiss if I didn’t say one of the things in this bill, Disney had their own special building codes,” Hutson said. “And we’re going to now put them at the state standard or above. With this district. I think we all know that with natural disasters, hurricanes, you name it, the Florida building codes need to be as stringent as possible and you should apply those standards or greater if you’re going to build anything.”
The revamped district would continue to have wide-ranging authority, including the ability to levy property taxes and fees, issue bonds and provide services such as water and sewer systems, roads and parking facilities.
Board members appointed by DeSantis would be subject to Senate confirmation. Appointees could not be employees, owners or operators of theme parks.
Senate Republicans on Friday rejected a Democratic proposal to require local representation on the board. A similar proposal also failed Thursday in the House.
–Jim Turner, News Service of Florida
Rick G says
How much of taxpayers dollars went to spend on this frivolous Special Session??? Our Governor is such a small, small man.
James Mejuto says
I wonder what would happen if Disney suspended all activities, closed down the attractions and property and called it a day?
If that happened Florida would end up being a Mississippi or Louisiana !!!
Dennis C Rathsam says
I wish they would, go see a Proud Family!
I fully believe that Trump, DeSantis, Hutson, and Renner are all egocentric, power grabbing, over reaching government failures. Them and Scott and Gaetz are all bad little boys, who have nothing to give to our state except culture wars and retaliation for those of us who don’t follow their narrow, self promoting little paths.
You did this, Republicans. Now they are appointing their buddies, much like Trump appointed his children, to positions they are not qualified to have, and should not have. I will not trust them for a second.
I never thought my beautiful Florida would be the first fascist state in the union. Instead of holding your noses when you vote for them, remove your fingers and take in a great, big, deep breath of what you have put in motion.
Corporations, look where your boys are going: taking over your businesses just like they have taken over women’s wombs.
You nailed it! With the governor appointing committee members- no more rainbow brilliant celebration days!! It is fascism and how do we roll up a newspaper and tap a nose and say NO, NO! I know they are sycophants, but there has to be a way to redeem the lost ones that support!
Elections have consequences. So does picking a fight. More important things to worry about.
Russell A Smith says
Good! Stick your nose where it doesn’t belong, not a good idea. Disney will now have to follow the rules that others like Universal have to follow. We are all equal, remember…
You don’t know the history of how Disney came into Florida to begin with. There is a story there- do your research and then weigh in!
@Starting from the wrong place already
Stop der Führer now. Tell the world to stay away. Scorch his earth.
“Give me a place to stand, and a lever long enough, and I will move the world. ”
I’ve tried to post a comment about the Parkland story 4 or 5 times today. “It appears you’ve already said that.”
Looks like I stand nowhere.
I hear you, I think. The idea that the State of Fl will push through law that says anyone can have a concealed weapon with just on ID and no additional training must make every Parkland parent sick. I’m sick! No, no, little puppy– No, no!!
Tony gon says
This is what he is doing with taxpayers money and not helping anyone in fl well the rich and people still like him coward
Doug Brown says
Disney World is a thyme park not a “Kingdom “. And treated like any other thyme park.
Doug: It’s not a park about herbs.
Disney came into FL after media got wind of what they did in CA. All the land got bought up and they were stuck in a very small space. In FL, they had seperate secret buyers purchasing land and other special circumstances to ensure they could create Disney WORLD! Can you put into words the amount of $$ Disney has brought into FL? International Dr. wouldn’t be what it is, why would any other theme park, like Universal, come to FL if Disney didn’t put us in the #1 destination? Know your history!!!!
“Disney had their own special building codes,” Hutson said. “And we’re going to now put them at the state standard or above.”
Another empty statement from an empty suit with no basis in fact. Being a structural engineer and having spent many years in the development of building codes at the national and state levels I can assure you that the codes used by Reedy Creek are in excess of anything currently used in a similar location in Florida. No, they do not meet all the requirements of the Miami-Dade codes which are based on a coastal location, nor should they need to meet them. Without getting too deep into the weeds, the main difference in the Reedy Creek code and the Florida building code is how large groups of people are treated in a crowded building. Both get to the same end of protecting people in the built environment but do it by different means. Reedy Creek pioneered the ‘shelter in place, protected areas of refuge’ philosophy for safety in a fire situation which is now in use throughout the country. Very similar to what Boeing did at their Everett plant.
Say whatever they want, these political hacks cannot disguise the fact that this takeover is motivated by nothing other than their fear of a mouse.
You are dead on! They hired the best and did it themselves. I think they’ve held themselves to a very high level w/out relying on our government. So much history there to learn about!
Nephew Of Uncle Sam says
“I would be remiss if I didn’t say one of the things in this bill, Disney had their own special building codes,” Hutson said. “And we’re going to now put them at the state standard or above. ”
Going to guess Disney has better building codes right now than the State, don’t remember any Disney buildings collapsing. Go ahead though and slap the Mouse and see what happens.
Dean Gallberry III says
Who said “There’s a new sheriff in town, and that’s just the way it’s going to be.”
A. Idi Amin
B. Muammar Qadaffi
C. Benito Mussolini
D. Saddam Hussein
E. Ron DeSantis
F. All of the above
Free hint: “There is freedom of speech, but I cannot guarantee freedom after speech.” – Idi Amin
LOL! I think they all said it in one form or another, so I’m going with F. What do I win? A voice? A rolled up newspaper to say, “no, no”? Or the unabashedly human right to say this isn’t kosher, this isn’t good for the majority,m and this isn’t good as a parent for my child. When/how do we step up and say NO to this level of control over our citizenship, parental right, and basically having a conversation about who/how constituents are represented?
@Denali, and Nephew Of Uncle Sam, I salute you
Gosh, Travis, tell us more:
Travis Hutson’s Biography, Professional Experience (keyboard_arrow_down)
Vice President, Hutson Companies, present
Former Finance Team Member, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam
Former Finance Team Member, Attorney General Pam Bondi
Former Finance Team Member, Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater
Former Finance Team Member, Governor Mitt Romney
Former Finance Team Member, Governor Rick Scott
Former Finance Team Member, Representative Daniel Davis
Former Finance Team Member, Saint Johns County Sherriff David Shoar
Former Finance Team Member, State Attorney Angela Corey
Former Finance Team Member, State Attorney R.J. Larizza
Former Realtor, Watson Reality
Assistant, Ambassador John Rood, Vestcor Companies, 2010
Well, you and uncle Ron are just like Jody Baxter — not.
FL D i c k t a t o r s h i p says
This only hurts the citizens of FL. More taxes. More fees. More money pushed on to FL citizens. Typical Republican activity. Look, Reedy Creek never should’ve existed the way it did but the manner in which it was seized is not good either. No one in their right mind should want a government overstepping this way. No one. And if you say you do because woke, be quiet and sit in the corner. You have no idea what you’re talking about when it comes to that word. It’s something you heard Fox News say and equate it to everything you disagree with now.
Companies can have their own ideologies that differ from the ruling government. They should be allowed to function without government seizure. Imagine if this was a Dem Governor. My word, would you people be up in arms about authoritarianism and fascism. But you refuse to see it because he has an “R” next to his name.
Nothing is stopping this big government freedom hating bully from hostile takeovers like his idol Orban. Orban is a Nazi. He is racist, sexist, homophobic, misogynistic, and xenophobic. What a role model. “Sarcasm heavily implied.” No one says you have to “like” people that are different from you, I know I don’t, but what I don’t do is devalue them by saying they can’t exist. What do I care if you’re in a mindless cult? I don’t. Do your thing but let me do mine too. Equal rights means just that, equal rights. Removing books, erasing conversations, saying only certain groups have rights doesn’t remove those people from existing nor should it. What is wrong with this world? And do not say God says this or that. Not true. The Bible never mentioned homosexuality until the 1940s. Prior to that it said pedophilia. Wonder why it was changed…hmm. At the end of the day none of you know God and if you actually saw what they really looked like, I guarantee you, you’d crap your pants. God is neither man nor woman, not white or black or brown or red or yellow…they are everything. So, the reality is people are basing their entire arguments on a book written by man that has been changed over time to forgive certain church habits (child sex abuse). Does anyone even know the history of how it all came together? What books were chosen over others? Probably not many. I studied religion. All religions. There are other books not chosen and I can see why. They are positive and loving and affirming and full of hope. Can’t control people and their thoughts if they have hope, can you? Religion is about control not actual belief. That comes from within, your spiritual connection to something that you sense exists. The Bible and the church are just about controlling the narrative and pushing radical agendas of hate. Jesus didn’t hate. He was the Woke King, a bisexual dark-skinned man that loved all, helped all, and accepted all. How can you claim to love Jesus and ignore his teaching? You can’t.
I would love to see desantis, the Yale and Harvard educated, elitist attorney, and war criminal, in a live, on-air interview, explain his naked lawlessness — and Citizens United — too!
You know there is no more rainbow days at disney now, right. I mean- no drag shows, no rainbow joy, no funtastic, loving days. My heart weeps for the bs that we are about to be subjected to. Not by a governor’s constituents, but by his hand picked “I get to choose what you should get to participate in” committee members. For those about to fight, we salute you—- ironic b/c I don’t mean desantis (lower case on purpose) b/c he is right as a Ceasar, but those who are fighting for what is right- I salute you!! rolled up newspaper in desantis’s nose— NO, no, bad boy! In the end- I am a parent and I get to choose what my child learns and sees and experiences. If I have to go through every banned book, I will! If I need to make sure the bigger story is told and as many voices as possible are heard, I will! That is me in my home, I weep for the families that don’t get the truth b/c our state government decided they don’t get to—- that is mother fuc*&(N Bulls&*^! I think those worlds desantis silences is exactly those worlds that need to be heard, helped, and part of our normal discussions! I’m so sorry desantis cried b/c his kids couldn’t see their grandparents due to covid. what s sheltered, self-absorbing life he’s led!
Steve Robinson says
Something tells me that long after DeSantis is nothing more than a fetid stain on the history of Florida, Disney World will be rolling along quite nicely–and profitably.
Steve: Let’s see if Bob Iger and the Disney lawyers are laying back and getting ready to pounce. Oh, I hope so! The current *Republicans* are going against all that they, recently, once believed in. Just two examples are government staying out of our bedrooms and not controlling businesses. Oh, yeah, and not eating their own. Well…
Look at them now.
This is what the people of Florida voted for, desantis won big , what’s the surprise? He won big because of places like flagler live and sister sites that turn off moderate democrats like myself and many others I know. Too bad
Pierre Tristam says
If factual reporting turns you off, you may want to rethink your turn-ons. But to each his own of course.
Black History class, Disney, and other reactionary pounces by our governor are not factual. If Disney warranted a change in their classifications, why did it only happen after the disagreed with the governor? This seems to be a common theme with our supreme leader. If you go against him, then you go down. What other governments have enacted this policy? Not only that, but during covid, when we were “free”, he was going to fire teachers if they didn’t go into the schools and take students in. Have you ever looked into that? Teachers’ felt like guinea pigs in a pandemic and they weren’t given a choice. Now he’s going to pay them more money?! The damage is done! That’s not freedom! Do you remember that–do you get what I’m saying? The great movement of people from outside of our state filtering in for “freedom” that made our housing market explode (I can’t buy a house), and our local government to spend more (street clean-up, road expansion, etc.), and b/c I’ve lived my whole life here people on certain formats tell me to move out b/c I can’t handle the change. I remember when Orlando had orange groves!!!! This republican government is indicative of transients and NOT those that grew up here. Don’t even get me started on the indigenous groups of FL and the history of take-over!!!!