You’ve got a friend? Joe Gruters sides with Disney, bucks Ron DeSantis on land-use powers
Joe Gruters makes a play for an RNC post.

Will other Republicans join Gruters small world of detractors?

A prominent Republican lawmaker just threw his lot in with Disney over Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Sen. Joe Gruters joined with Democrats in voting against an amendment undermining Disney’s control over developing its Central Florida properties.

“We should be finding ways to support our job creators and turbocharge Florida’s economy,” the Sarasota Republican said. “People’s pocketbooks are more powerful at influencing corporate behavior than the heavy hand of government. I’m sure Floridians will make their voices heard on this issue.”

That makes Gruters the first Republican to side with Disney in a long-running feud with DeSantis that started last year after the corporation criticized the Parental Rights in Education law that critics call “Don’t Say Gay.” The legislation forbids inclusion of gender identity or sexual orientation in public school curricula. While the law initially instituted an outright ban on topics only through 3rd grade, the Board of Education recently expanded it to apply through high school graduation.

After the public criticism, DeSantis called lawmakers to Tallahassee for a Special Session to eliminate the Reedy Creek Improvement District, the long-standing government entity that effectively allowed Disney to self-govern its property in Central Florida.

This year, DeSantis signed another law replacing the district with a new one where he appointed every member. But that board said it realized only after Reedy Creek was dissolved that the outgoing board approved development agreements effectively giving full control of land use to Disney and rendering the oversight board toothless.

The Florida Senate approved an amendment to a land-use bill on Wednesday that would reverse that move. It then passed the legislation on a 27-13 party-line vote, with Gruters the only Senator to cross party lines.

Gruters holds significant sway within Florida Republican circles, and just finished four years as chairman of the Republican Party of Florida.

He also just endorsed former President Donald Trump for President in 2024. He attended a dinner at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate with 11 U.S. Representatives from Florida backing Trump that was widely seen as a snub of DeSantis as he wooed members of Congress in Washington.

Gruters in the past has been a friend to Disney in the Legislature, sponsoring film incentive programs and once even suggesting Florida adopt “It’s a Small World” as its state song.

The vote came the same day Disney sued DeSantis claiming the Governor aimed to violate the company’s First Amendment rights.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


  • DeSantis is a failed leader

    April 26, 2023 at 8:17 pm

    it’s nice to see sensible Republicans. The past two decades, responsible Republicans kind of went out the window. They focus more on culture issues and hurting people as opposed to helping every constituent noches those that believe like they did

  • Peggy

    April 26, 2023 at 8:28 pm

    Imaging calling yourself a “Small Government Conservative” then going ahead and supporting DeSantis for punishing a company only because they were critical of your policies.

  • Reagan Neo Liberal Economist Ed👍

    April 26, 2023 at 9:17 pm

    Dump the far right and religious whacko Republicans. Let’s get back to sane government. Resist the fascists and of course the orange confidence man.

  • SteveHC

    April 26, 2023 at 10:24 pm

    Well, I guess one apparently rational Republican Floridian politician is better that none…

  • PeterH

    April 26, 2023 at 10:53 pm

    DeSantis’s economic and social policies are neither “conservative” nor “rational!”

    DeSantis’s actions are clearly identifiable as “bullying!” DeSantis is actually more divisive than Trump. Neither will ever be elected President.

  • Howard Kelquin Family

    April 27, 2023 at 5:53 am

    Disney lost my family & any money we would have ever paid them.

    • Deezy

      April 27, 2023 at 8:01 am

      Good stay away

  • Finbar Smith

    April 27, 2023 at 9:42 am

    Come on Florida independent voters, work with the States young voters and help sign them up to vote. It’s the only way to rid Florida of DeSantis and his legislative cronies. We need to take America back from the Authoritarian Republican Party. Vote vote vote. (Hey Disney, leave Florida, you would be welcome in many other states).

    • JD

      April 27, 2023 at 9:59 am

      Agreed, the 2.6M NPAs are what decide elections. Not the 430K lead the Republicans have on the rolls.

      If Democrats went about purging the rolls of Republicans like they did to the Democrats, they’d be even again on the voter rolls.

Comments are closed.


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