Disney government dissolution bill approved amid chaos in House
COLIN HACKLEY PHOTO

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Speaker Chris Sprowls overcame shouting long enough to follow rules toward swift votes.

With post-sit-in protest chaos still filling the House chambers with shouts and screams, Republicans pushed legislation to abolish Walt Disney World’s special government through to passage Thursday.

Speaker Chris Sprowls’ perfunctory and futile appeals for decorum took only moments before a swift vote was called, giving final, party-line legislative approval to SB 4-C. That measure would dissolve the Reedy Creek Improvement District and five other smaller special governmental agencies across Florida next year.

There was no floor debate attempted Thursday, despite the bill’s highly controversial contents and the process that led to its legislative approval.

Lawmakers OK’d SB 4-C by a 70-38 vote, as well as the congressional redistricting bill and another Disney bill, after debate on the redistricting bill collapsed into protest just before noon. That led to an hour-long sit-in protest by House Democrats, primarily African American members, who argued the map was an unconstitutional abridgment of African American voting rights.

Sprowls reconvened the House shortly before 1 p.m., then pushed the three bills of the Special Session through to quick and expected approvals in about five minutes’ time, essentially overcoming shouting from the back of the chambers long enough to follow parliamentary rules toward swift votes.

While the redistricting bill has far broader implications, SB 4-C was no less controversial. Democrats had charged it was a government manifestation of Gov. Ron DeSantis’ ire toward Walt Disney Co., for the California-based company’s public criticism of the controversial parental rights bill (HB 1557) approved last month. Republicans had pushed that measure through during the regular Session. DeSantis signed it as Democrats and other opponents labeled it the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

SB 4-C, which now goes to DeSantis’ desk for his signature, would dissolve the special government created 55 years ago to provide Walt Disney World with its own style of home rule. The bill and its House counterpart were first unveiled Tuesday. They drew fierce debate the past couple of days, as Democrats called the legislation political punishment and extortion of a private company for speaking out against the Governor’s agenda.

There was no debate on the House floor Thursday, as Sprowls maneuvered it through the chamber’s din. There had been two hours of debate scheduled.

The House also approved SB 6-C, removing a tech free-speech carve-out created for Disney Plus last year. That approval came short moments after SB 4-C was approved. Another 40 minutes of debate had been scheduled for that bill.

“These two bills have got a lot of questions and a lot of attention over the last two days,” Sprowls said as he tried to direct the House’s attention. “Every member of this chamber should have the opportunity to talk about that and to speak their piece. We’re going to move on to those two bills. If we can have a civil debate that respects the rules of this House that we all voted and agreed to, we will do that. If, however, our colleagues continue to try to shut down our process, I will entertain a motion to call the previous question and we’ll vote on the two bills.”

Forty-five seconds later, Republican Rep. Chuck Brannan of Macclenny called for the vote.

Once DeSantis signs SB 4-C — and he essentially had the bill drafted and run through the Special Session in short order — Reedy Creek and the other five special districts all would be scheduled to go away on June 1, 2023. That’s unless the Legislature reconstitutes them in the 2023 Legislative Session next year.

The other districts facing a 2023 demise 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.

Afterward, Democratic Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith of Orlando lashed out at Republicans for accusing Democrats of violating decorum, saying the Republicans were using the “full power of the state of Florida to enact retribution against their political opponents, namely Disney.”

“While some Republicans are out there crying that we violated decorum, they violated the Constitution of the state of Florida, they have trampled on the rights of everyday Floridians,” Smith said. “And that is why it was important for Democrats to take a stand today and I am proud of my colleagues for doing so.”

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 lawsuits allowed under the law would effectively ban discussions of LGBTQ issues at any grade level.

____

Renzo Downey of Florida Politics contributed to this report.

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]


15 comments

  • MK

    April 21, 2022 at 2:21 pm

    Our state legislature and gov desantis have turned into a bunch of political babies. They want Disney money for there campaigns but don’t want the criticism?!?! You cant have it both way. Minute Disney pulled there funds they through there weight around autocracy at its worst.

  • FLORIDA_RETAIL_SLUT

    April 21, 2022 at 2:28 pm

    Will there a big party on June 1, 2023 to drain the swamp…errr…Reedy Creek?

    I guess employees of Reedy Creek can apply for “jobs” with the cities of Bay Lake and Lake Buena Vista…oh, I forgot, they all share the same building – some even double dip in positions between the two cities. If no jobs available, maybe they can become greeters at the main gates?

    Order the moving vans for the folks living in Bay Lake and Lake Buena Vista. You will not need to live there any longer to do Disney’s bidding.

    When the governor signs the goodbye to Reedy Creek bill – will they be jumping out from the windows in Burbank? A mouse may commit suicide on Alameda Ave.!

    Disney stock down $2.50 or so today!

    FLORIDA_RETAIL_SLUT

  • Tjb

    April 21, 2022 at 2:45 pm

    Thank you Governor DeSantis for giving the citizens of Orange County the opportunity to pay more in property taxes. Perhaps you can also increase the gasoline tax at Florida’s gas pumps and get the insurance companies to continue to increase the cost of homeowners insurance. Keep up the good work Ron DeSantis.

  • Out of Control Government

    April 21, 2022 at 4:03 pm

    45 seconds is obviously a totally appropriate amount of time to consider and debate these important matters affecting 21 million residents and the number one tourist destination in the world.

    This government is completely out of control and drunk on their own power.

    • stp

      April 21, 2022 at 4:08 pm

      Common sense is easy to apply in 45 seconds.

  • stp

    April 21, 2022 at 4:06 pm

    Thank you Governor DeSantis for fighting back against communism. We are fortunate to have someone who stands up the domestic enemies.

    • Mad mouse

      April 21, 2022 at 4:55 pm

      I can’t wait till they have to raise your taxes skyward from and have 1 billion dollars in liability just to get back at the libs.

      You would “crying” do that to your whole economy just to get back at us…i feel so special

  • desmond kelly

    April 21, 2022 at 5:38 pm

    The mentally disturbed liberals are getting triggered. It’s all good!!!!

    • I sure am

      April 21, 2022 at 6:16 pm

      You sure got us back by raising your own taxes in the middle of housing crisis alright!

    • Pedro from south of the border

      April 21, 2022 at 10:53 pm

      Sounds more like the state brown shirts are the mentally disturbed ones.

  • Tree

    April 21, 2022 at 6:28 pm

    To push through any legislation with little or no debate is reckless at best. To completely ignore the impact to an entire region of our State borders on malpractice. In a 2019 study Disney created 483,OOO jobs in Central Florida, had a $75.2 billion dollar annual economic impact and produces $5.8 billion dollars in state tax revenue. To say the liberals are out of their minds ignores the impact to all Central Florida residents who by and far are moderate. It is actions like these that make moderate Republicans question what happened to our party. To make a potentially billion dollar decision in a matter of days without debate questions Ron DeSantis judgement and qualifications for higher office.

  • Steven M Grabarczyk

    April 21, 2022 at 6:40 pm

    LOL while I do not agree with the Special districts dissolved because of ILLEGAL political animus, but that didnt bother Carlos when he lied and used the SAME political animus that he claims here when he lies to Florida voters about the greyhound industry. ALL politicians are SCUM

  • Per normal

    April 21, 2022 at 7:16 pm

    Leave It to Florida to prove why republicans never prosper past farming

  • Paul

    April 21, 2022 at 10:50 pm

    Big question now is what state gets to be the new home to Disney World? The free state of Florida won’t be so free after losing that pot of tax revenue!

  • Woolania

    April 22, 2022 at 3:44 pm

    Unlike Trump, DeSantis is stock market poison.

Comments are closed.


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