The state’s takeover of Disney World’s government cleared another hurdle Friday as a state Senate committee approved a bill reshaping Reedy Creek’s board.
The senate Rules Committee advanced HB 9-B. The bill came to the Senate after the House approved the measure Thursday with a 82-31 vote.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Fred Hawkins, has championed the bill as necessary for leveling the playfield since Disney has had its own controlled government board since 1967, an advantage Disney’s theme park competitors don’t have. The bill gives the Governor the power to appoint Reedy Creek’s board members.
“No one has a kingdom in Florida,” said Sen. Dennis Baxley, a Republican from Lady Lake whose district includes part of Orange County, during Friday’s Senate panel.
Hawkins also touted the bill as important to protect local taxpayers from being burdened with Reedy Creek’s existing $1 billion debt. The Legislature voted last year to dissolve Reedy Creek by June 2023 and one major concern for lawmakers had been the fate of Reedy Creek’s debt.
The bill also renames Reedy Creek to the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District and sets a two-year window for the transition. The Republican from St. Cloud has stressed the bill doesn’t dissolve Reedy Creek — it just creates a new board and a new name.
Of Disney, House Speaker Paul Renner said, “They’re not in charge of themselves anymore.”
“As the Governor said, ‘There’s a new sheriff in town.’ The people’s elected representative, the Governor, is making those appointments, so they’ll be governed in a way that levels the playing field with other entities,” Renner said Friday at a press conference.
But Central Florida lawmakers have raised concerns that Reedy Creek is going from one extreme to another if the Disney-controlled board is turned into a board where the Governor has total control.
Reedy Creek acts like a municipal government and gives contracts. Reedy Creek is responsible for the roads to build Disney World’s roads, handles utilities zoning as well as emergency services.
Some lawmakers expressed fears of potential corruption over who serves on the board and the contracts the board may give out.
Democrats have raised concerns local leaders, such as the mayors of Orlando, Kissimmee and Orange County, aren’t automatically giving spots on the board for local representation.
The Republicans’ fight against Reedy Creek and Disney began last year when the company spoke out against the Parental Rights in Education bill, which critics call the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
Of Reedy Creek and Disney, Sen. Victor Torres, a Democrat from Orlando questioned the need to large scale adjustments.
“They’re not perfect, but when you look at how far they have gotten and you see the amount of tourism that has been generated by those theme parks … just because of Disney, you begin to wonder, what do you need to change?” Torres said at Friday’s hearing.
“There is no need for change. … This is a power grab by the Governor. This bill is just meant to show other private companies, if you say something wrong that I don’t like, I’m going to go after you. I’m a no on this bill.”
Ron DeSantis is a Tyrant
February 10, 2023 at 1:57 pm
Blatant violation of Disney’s First Amendment Rights and pure political theater by DeSantis.
Disney has DEEP pockets and there is no way they’re going to give this up.
February 12, 2023 at 12:00 pm
What does deDick tell his kids when they beg to go visit Mickey? Why does Casey allow Ron to hurt her children for votes? Why won’t MAGAts let their kids be kids?
Dr. Franklin Waters
February 13, 2023 at 2:55 pm
Don’t be a hypocrite and do The Villages next.
They’re a special district just like Disney.
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