Florida lawmakers will meet next week to complete a state takeover of Walt Disney World’s self-governing district and debate proposals on immigration and election crimes, as Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis continues to leverage national political fissures ahead of an expected White House run.
Republican leaders of the Legislature, in coordination with DeSantis, on Friday ordered lawmakers to convene for a special session next week to deal with the Reedy Creek Improvement District, as the Disney government is known.
In addition, the Statehouse will also consider legislation creating a program to relocate migrants and make clear the statewide prosecutor has authority to prosecute election crimes in federal and state races.
The agenda marks a sustained focus from DeSantis on issues such as immigration, election fraud, gender and sexuality, with the ascendant Republican eager to lean into political divides as he positions himself for a 2024 presidential run and further brandishes his reputation as a conservative firebrand.
The meeting will represent the latest development in a high-profile feud between DeSantis and Disney over the company’s criticism over a law dubbed by critics as “Don’t Say Gay,” which bars instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade and lessons deemed not age appropriate.
The governor, in pushing lawmakers to strip the company of its self-governing status, displayed a willingness to go after one of the state’s biggest employers and political donors, reinforcing the combative leadership style that has propelled him to national political stardom.
The special session had been rumored to focus on Disney but Friday’s announcement detailing the additional subjects also ensures heavy attention on the governor’s approach to voter fraud and immigration, key issues of conservative Republican primary voters.
The election crimes prosecution measure comes after some charges linked to the governor’s new election police unit were dropped because of jurisdiction issues. The memo characterizes the measure as a clarification of state law.
Lawmakers will also create a program to transport immigrants in the country illegally to another state if they’ve already been processed by the federal government and the migrants volunteer. DeSantis has already used part of a $12 million fund, paid for by taxpayers, to fly about 50 South American migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, in protest of federal immigration policy.
The special session will also adjust language in current laws addressing endorsement deals for college athletes.
Florida was one of the first states to pass a law allowing college athletes to profit off their name, image or likeness, but it doesn’t allow people affiliated with universities to help secure endorsement deals. The proposal would lift that provision to make Florida more competitive with other states that don’t have the restriction.
Lawmakers will also consider a bill to provide more relief money for Hurricane Ian and Nicole recovery efforts, according to the memo.
Published with permission of The Associated Press.