Randy Fine: Reedy Creek dissolution bill is what happens when you ‘kick the bees’ nest’

Randy Fine Titusville 1
'Punishing a company for daring to speak against a Governor's radical right political agenda.'

As the surprise House bill to dissolve Walt Disney World’s special government agency rushed to committee approval Tuesday, angry debaters on both sides agreed: This is what can happen in Florida when a corporation bucks political power.

“When you poke the bear or you kick the bees’ nest, sometimes issues come out,” said Brevard County Republican Rep. Randy Fine, sponsor of HB 3C.

Fine and other Republican committee members who spoke made it clear that the bees nest was Gov. Ron DeSantis, Fine, and other supporters of a controversial parental rights bill (HB 1557). Republicans pushed the measure through during the regular Session. DeSantis signed it as Democrats and other opponents labeled it the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

The measure bans classroom “instruction on sexual orientation or gender identity” for students in kindergarten through third grade, or “in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.” After Disney called for the law’s repeal, Republicans began floating Tuesday’s action.

The issue that Fine says came out is HB 3C and SB 4-C’s call to dissolve six special independent governing districts that predate Florida’s 1968 Constitution, including the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which effectively serves as a private government for Walt Disney World.

Fine sought to make the case that Reedy Creek and the other five districts are antiquated and need revising and updating. His bill sunsets them on June 1, 2023.

Democrats sought to make the case that the bill was written and introduced in a rush, and likely will be approved along party lines at this week’s Special Session, just to punish Disney for political disloyalty.

Fine and other Republicans did not entirely disagree — leaving that notion as a possible message to be contemplated by other corporations operating in Florida.

The bills dropped at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday with no advance notice. Only one public speaker showed up at the only House committee hearing on the bill.

The House State Affairs Committee approved HB 3C 14-7 along party lines.

A little later, the Senate Community Affairs Committee, meeting almost simultaneously, approved SB 4-C also along party lines before it made its way to the Senate floor Tuesday evening. The Senate is expected to pass the bill Wednesday with the House expected to follow suit Thursday.

House Democrats raised concerns that the bill, if it is merely a statement of political vengeance, creates uncertainty for the future of the Reedy Creek government and its 400 employees, for Disney’s long-term development plans, and for the financial bearing of Walt Disney World, the dominant economic engine for Central Florida.

“We’ve pulled the rug out from underneath all of the workers and businesses and we’re pulling the rug out from underneath Central Florida’s economy, all because one business had the gall to stand up for the LGBTQ community. That’s what this is all about,” argued Orlando Democratic Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith.

“Maybe this bill is pushback — on ‘woke’ capitalism,” said West Palm Beach Republican Rep. Rick Roth.

That back-and-forth continued throughout Tuesday’s proceedings.

“Punishing a company for daring to speak against a Governor’s radical right political agenda is precisely the kind of thing that we see in countries like Russia and China,” asserted North Miami Democratic Rep. Dotie Joseph.

“Once upon a time Disney was a great partner for the state of Florida. … Shamefully, Disney betrayed us,” argued Tampa Republican Rep. Jackie Toledo. “The company that Walt Disney started, which was a beacon of family values, has now been perverted by a woke mob of liberal extremists into a laboratory of gender identity social experimentation, in which our children are guinea pigs.”

As the full Senate considered the proposal, bill sponsor and Fleming Island Republican Sen. Jennifer Bradley acknowledged that lawmakers would have to address the details of dissolving special districts next Session, calling the possibility “a complicated transaction.”

Sen. Jeff Brandes, a St. Petersburg Republican who frequently crosses party lines, raised concerns that local governments would be forced to take on Reedy Creek Improvement District’s debts if the governing body folds. With the year-long buffer before the measure would take effect, Bradley told Senators the proposal would give lawmakers time to react.

“If we get to the point where that dissolution is going to happen, we have a role as a Legislature next Session, and we can step in to make sure that parade of horribles that you just outlined does not occur,” Bradley said.

Notably, Bradley joined Brandes as the only Senate Republicans to vote against HB 1557.

There was little debate over whether the Reedy Creek Improvement District was an appropriate government entity to be created in 1967 to provide Walt Disney World with its own government. Fine suggested it was not, and didn’t find too much disagreement.

HB 3C gives Reedy Creek and the other five districts nearly a year to work out a new plan and present it at the 2023 Legislative Session for consideration. The others include development authorities in Bradford and Hamilton counties, a water and sewer district in Franklin County, a water control district in Broward County, and a law library district in Marion County.

Fine initially tried to offer the bill entirely as a practical housecleaning of old measures, and pointed out some of the unusual powers granted Reedy Creek — and Disney therefore — as evidence that a reassessing is long overdue.

“We should review things that took place this long ago,” Fine said.

Democrats, particularly Smith, rejected any notion that HB 3C is anything other than political punishment for Disney.

“That is a joke. We’re not stupid,” Smith responded.

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at [email protected]


30 comments

  • Ron DeSantis sucks

    April 19, 2022 at 5:03 pm

    Why is the legislature allowed to introduce bills unrelated to the purpose of the special session the governor called?

    • Ron DeSantis rocks

      April 20, 2022 at 11:45 am

      Why can Biden not follow federal law and do w.e he wants?

  • Walpurgis

    April 19, 2022 at 5:37 pm

    Republican strategy: a “straw man” is created to terrify the electorate, supported with irrational declarations, e.g. “Walt Disney…..has now been perverted by a woke mob of liberal extremists into a laboratory of gender identity social experimentation, in which our children are guinea pigs.”
    The angry, hair-on-fire Republican voters, having been dumbed down for decades by Gov. DeSantis’ hero Rush Limbaugh, react predictably. Anyone who resists this dynamic is labeled a woke radical leftist socialist globalist Communist. The Republicans have it all figured out.

    • Cry me a river

      April 20, 2022 at 11:46 am

      And anyone who disagrees with your thinking is a radical right winger. Cry some more. Your gonna lose this war

      • No I don’t

        April 20, 2022 at 2:03 pm

        Disney has more money then your entire state

        No I don’t think they will

      • What Woke Means

        April 27, 2022 at 3:17 pm

        “You’re”.

  • JD

    April 19, 2022 at 5:40 pm

    You’re going to wake the bear and it’s not Desantis nor the GOP controlled legislature. 100 Million in a SuperPac isn’t going to hold a candle to Disney’s billions. Nor the 77000 employees X 2 for significant others and along with all the support business employees that vote. Buyer beware of the Culture Wars.

    Disney has done far more good than this red meat rant or recent bowing to China You shall reap what you sow.

    3.8 Million NPAs – they’re watching and now talking.

    • tom palmer

      April 19, 2022 at 9:17 pm

      Yes, it may be that DeSantis & co have gone too far this time. There’s more than one hornet’s nest out there.

    • Rick

      April 28, 2022 at 5:39 pm

      77,000 employees is nothing when Florida population is 22 million- most of those Disney jobs are low paying dead end jobs- I live in Florida and easily 85 % of our voters do not want 5-6-7 year old learning or discussing anything sexually

  • Rings stay on

    April 19, 2022 at 7:05 pm

    Mickey Mouse is about to beat Florida like that Jonás brother

  • Marcus J. Hopkins

    April 19, 2022 at 7:50 pm

    The best way to deal with the #RepublicanTerrorists that infest our Body Politic is for Disney to treat their states like they’re Russia:

    Immediately cease any and all operations, business, and sales in the state of Florida, shutter the park, the hotels, the resorts, the infrastructure, and the cruises, relocate the employees to competently run states, and starve Florida’s economy to death.

    Nothing of value will be lost.

    • Yoji

      April 20, 2022 at 12:17 am

      Wait for it, the next announcement from Florida will be the national guard invading Disney in a special military operation to de-nazify it.

    • Ann Tetreault

      April 22, 2022 at 5:20 pm

      Marcus has a very good idea!
      That will show our Governor who thinks he’s an Emperor that he’s a loser and has no business running anything bigger than a toy car!

  • tom palmer

    April 19, 2022 at 8:21 pm

    Midgets.

  • just sayin

    April 20, 2022 at 10:04 am

    It’s cute to see Democrats defending a corporation being allowed to essentially govern itself. You would think they’d be falling over themselves to end this unique loophole that Disney’s enjoyed and exploited.

    Also dissolution of the district means $100s of millions of dollars in new property taxes annually for blue Orange County.

    You may disagree with what caused the State to finally end this nonsense, but opposing it goes against all the principles the Democratic Party espouses.

    • Jack

      April 20, 2022 at 10:20 am

      Nope, Disney already pays substantial property taxes, it means the burden of items and upkeep that Disney is currently covering will then fall to the county. Per UCF Professor Jim Clark:

      “First of all, Disney doesn’t get any breaks here. It’s not like they don’t pay property taxes. They do pay tremendous property taxes in Orange and Osceola, but they pay for their own fire protection, they contract with the sheriff’s department and pay for protection from the sheriff’s department, they are responsible for their own infrastructure, everything. So they are paying property taxes, but they’re also paying millions and millions of dollars for upkeep to what would usually be done by the county, so it could be that the taxpayers of Orange and Osceola counties are gonna get a tax increase because of the Reedy Creek District going away. It could hurt the counties, definitely. And I don’t think (the counties) want responsibility for what’s 27 square miles of additional territory.”

      Also, it’s incredibly disappointing that DeSantis is taking political action against a private company for a position on a bill.

      • Disneysucks

        April 24, 2022 at 1:40 am

        Disney also pay’s politicians off to gets its way. Disney has fought casino’s every step of the way, costing Florida. Disney executive was texting a county commissioner during a hearing over employee sick time. The employee’s lost, the commissioner deleted the texts. She also paid a fine. Disney keeps a fire hose of money pointed at politicians, this can’t be a bad thing. The county isn’t gonna be responsible for Disney debt, nor is the small force of security guards, and EMT’s gonna cost billions. This is just a scare tactic, and a company who bribes politicians finally got bit by one. Sad

    • Eric

      April 20, 2022 at 12:40 pm

      Right outcome for a very dangerous and unconstitutional reason. The 1st amendment (Free Speech) protects people from persecution from the government over what they say. DeSantis and Florida GOP are literally saying that this Reddy Creek bill is retaliation because Disney came out an opposed the Don’t Say Gay bill. So this is the government persecuting Disney for what they said. Which violates Free Speech.

      Not that any of DeSantis’s followers care. The Constitution only seems to apply when it suits them.

      • Disneysucks

        April 24, 2022 at 1:42 am

        I agree. A corrupt company finally got bitten by the snakes it pays. But is it for the right reason?

    • EliminateAll

      April 20, 2022 at 2:34 pm

      That’s a very fair point, but we should be evaluating all of the special taxing districts and not just this one. Also, this thing needs to be done in such a way that it impacts the people of Osceola and Orange Counties as minimally as possible. Throwing a tax bill of $2,200 to each resident as is being suggested is not the way to go about this.

      • Disney sucks

        April 24, 2022 at 1:46 am

        Disney debt isn’t gonna impact taxpayers. The lowly paid security guard jobs won’t either. We need to get rid of all corrupt companies, especially the ones who bribe politicians like Disney. Let’s look back at what Disney bribes have cost Florida. Disney workers lost sick time hearing. Disney fights casino’s at every turn. . Disney snaked it’s land through shell companies, and bribed its way to special status

  • LD

    April 20, 2022 at 2:01 pm

    This is really dumb. I’m not a super lefty by any means but this culture war stuff gets tiring on both the right and left. Disney through the district takes on a lot of public infrastructure costs in return for not having to submit to some of the county authorities like the planning board. Ultimately this is likely to add costs on to the other taxpayers in both counties.

    • LD

      April 20, 2022 at 2:03 pm

      Further – this is really just political theatre and is more about energizing the base for the upcoming mid term elections and the implications of doing this have likely not been considered at all.

  • William

    April 20, 2022 at 2:43 pm

    Florida, you will live to regret playing politics with the one company that invested in your state and made you trillions for your bank account. Live with you total lack of ethics and enjoy yourself.

  • Can You All Read The Statute and THEN Report?

    April 20, 2022 at 4:02 pm

    Unless I’m reading it wrong, FloriDuhh can’t cancel the district without the votes of the residents in the district (Disney) and the votes of the adjoining counties (Orange.)

    • JD

      April 20, 2022 at 4:07 pm

      That was mentioned in the floor debate. I am sure it will become a “We will test it court”. Let’s see how this shakes out.

      3.8M independents – you have a choice and a voice.

  • Drutch

    April 20, 2022 at 5:02 pm

    My step son is gay. We love him. However, the “Don’t say gay” bill has nothing to do with denying rights. Sexual topics should not be discussed in schools period. I understand that school may be one of the few outlets the kids have where their parents cannot physically intervene in these types of conversations. But, those topics are NOT for the government nor corporations to decide on who, when and where to discuss. We are not serfs, our children are not the property of corporations nor governments. I know some parents can be resistant and abusive when it comes to non-hetero-children. But, we should not be countering bad behavior with more bad behavior, like subjecting small children to conversations that robs their innocence. That is tantamount to state-sponsored sexual assault.

  • TeachNow

    April 21, 2022 at 9:26 am

    If by saying “kicking the hornets nest” they mean to imply that DeSantis has the ethical character of an insect, I would have to agree.

  • Ed Lennox

    April 21, 2022 at 3:18 pm

    Russia has Putin. Florida has DeSantis. Neither one is a “capitalist.” DeSantis and his henchmen in the Florida legislature are using Putinesque strongman tactics to punish dissenters. One Florida Representative, Randy Fine, went as far as to overtly threaten Disney: “[They] are a guest in our state,” he warned, and “[They] better on their best behavior.” Or else? This is despicable, and it’s happening in America.

  • Disney sucks

    April 24, 2022 at 1:50 am

    Disney deserves this, although I wish it wasn’t in retaliation. I guess Disney didn’t bribe Desantis, like it did the envelope opener who said taxpayers would have to pay Disney debt. That’s a laughable scare tactic. It’s a great outcome, although the reasoning might be flawed.

Comments are closed.


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