Offering little defense to Democrats’ insistence that the measure is nothing but political punishment of a corporation that crossed the Governor, Senate Republicans Wednesday approved a Special Session bill that would dissolve the special government created 55 years ago to serve Walt Disney World.
The Senate voted 23-16 with Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes crossing party lines.
That gave final Senate approval to Republican Rep. Jennifer Bradley’s bill (SB 4-C) to sunset six special districts that have existed since before the Florida Constitution was approved in 1968, and which have not been revisited by the Legislature since.
The Senate also voted to approve SB 6-C, removing a tech free speech carve-out created for Disney last year.
Five of those districts addressed in SB 4-C are small, local government agencies dealing with development, water, sewer or library systems.
The big mouse in the bill’s trap is the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which provides government services to the 25,000 acres of Orange and Osceola counties that constitute Walt Disney World.
The action came swiftly, only a day after the bill was introduced. It came a few weeks after the California-based Walt Disney Company dared to cross Gov. Ron DeSantis and criticize the controversial parental rights bill (HB 1557). Republicans pushed that measure through during the regular Session. DeSantis signed it as Democrats and other opponents labeled it the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
If the House follows suit with SB 4-C or its own Special Session bill (HB 3C) Thursday, as expected, and DeSantis signs a final product, as expected, Reedy Creek and the other five special districts all go away on June 1, 2023. That’s unless the Legislature reconstitutes them in the 2023 Legislative Session next year.
Wednesday’s Senate Session floor debate was almost entirely from Democrats, who charged the bill represents everything from bullying of a corporation, to extortion — from political revenge, to political theater — all in the culture wars they say DeSantis and Republicans are pursuing.
Democratic Sen. Jason Pizzo of Miami even offered to absolve Bradley for sponsoring the bill, calling the measure “penance that Sen. Bradley has to pay because she voted no on ‘Don’t Say Gay.'”
Bradley didn’t refute or directly address that assertion in her closing.
“Today we put in place a process for the Legislature to exercise those very appropriate oversight functions. It’s a process that’s been swift, but it’s a bill that’s been incredibly important and that I’m proud to sponsor,” Bradley said. “We have a year. We have local governments who will be involved. And I assure you we will have a Legislature that is involved to make sure the parade of horribles that has been described does not happen.”
The measure the Democrats contend led to SB 4-C, the parental rights bill, 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.” Republicans supported the bill as a way to require appropriate instruction. Democrats contended that civil lawsuit triggers effectively ban discussions of LGBTQ issues at any grade level.
After Disney called for the law’s repeal, Republicans began floating the measures to do away with Disney’s government district.
In Wednesday’s debate, Democrat Sen. Tina Polsky of Boca Raton called SB 4-C a “draconian, intrusive, overreaching” bill attacking Disney “for expressing support for its many LGBTQ employees and customers.”
Supporters of the measure argued that Reedy Creek and the other districts — 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 — have a full year to pursue a bill to reinstate themselves. And those reinstatement bills likely would make for better governments, they argued.
Democratic Sen. Loranne Ausley of Quincy wondered what those districts would have to do to overcome the political ire that led to their death sentences to begin with.
“With the case of the Reedy Creek Improvement District, we know what that will entail. This is kind of like parents putting their kids on restrictions. Clean up your act, apologize, say you’re sorry, and agree to change your behavior, and maybe you’ll get your phone back, or your other privileges,” Ausley said.
She noted that no Legislature can guarantee what another Legislature might do.
“We’re adding insult to injury by voting on something today that was proposed yesterday, going after a private business that literally made our state what it is, all because they’ve taken a position that the Governor disagrees with. Oh, by the way, we’re going to take out five smaller districts just to make it look good,” Ausley added.
Sen. Victor Torres of Orlando pointed to the potential ramifications for the 400 or so firefighters and emergency medical personnel of Reedy Creek, the other employees, the thousands of contract workers, and the nearly $1 billion in bond debts the district has, which might have to be transferred to two tiny municipalities or to Orange and Osceola counties, which he represents.
“No one discussed these changes and the financial responsibilities the counties would have to assume,” Torres said.
April 20, 2022 at 3:09 pm
OMG…when Reedy Creek is dissolved, the taxes of those homeowners in Bay Lake and Lake Buena Vista may increase!
LOL—there are no homeowners in either city. You lease the home from Disney, and all are current or former Disney employees that live in the homes.
Imagine that! No non-Disney related people live in either city.
Some confuse the residences at the very Disney-adjacent Four Seasons hotel, but Disney was careful to “carve out” those properties and they are located in unincorporated Orange County. That mouse is pretty good at drawling municipal lines – for their benefit.
No opposition at city meetings – because all of the “residents” have or have had ties to Disney.
Looks like Reedy Creek is going to run dry next year, and Disney may see an increase in their assessments. How much will their property tax increase?…hmmm
The folks in Burbank must be sick today!
SCOTT m Lee-ROSS
April 20, 2022 at 3:22 pm
The ignorance here is amazing. Disney already pays property tax to Orange and Osceola counties for their land and improvements. They are not tax free.
Then Disney pays taxes to RCID in order for the district to provide services like Fire Protections, Building Inspections, Health Dept, Water and Flood control, road construction, vector abatement, etc. If RCID was dissolved the expenses of these expenses would fall to the local counties as well as the debt for the $1 billion in public bonds issued by the district. These services and debt are funded by Disney and the taxing by RCID exclusively. Without the District if will fall on land owners in the entire counties. Disney will pay lower taxes overall for the public to receive the same services
April 20, 2022 at 5:59 pm
Of course they pay taxes. My thought is how much more the taxes will increase when Reedy Creek goes away and the parcels are re-assessed by Orange and Osceola Counties?
As Disney owns most of the parcels within Reedy Creek, they will bear the brunt of any increases. As for other non-Disney operated hotels, the Speedway stations, free standing McDonald’s, etc. within Reedy Creek, Disney owns the land underneath the parcels and leases it to the operator – usually under very long term leases.
How will the Reedy Creek issue affect Disney’s share price?
Burbank must be having pineapples today when going to the toilet.
Just a prediction
April 21, 2022 at 11:01 am
I am just waiting on islym refugees that are gay around the world to come to America to be gay America
April 21, 2022 at 11:29 am
Tax Disney 75%. I thought Democrats hated large corporations. Guess they side with them when it pushes their agenda.
April 21, 2022 at 3:32 pm
Tax Disney 75 percent
Disney: “leaves Florida”
Comments are closed.