UPDATE: Linda Stewart bill repealing Disney district takeover supported 7-0 by Orange County lawmakers, but walkouts prevent quorum

But the vote happened after GOP lawmakers walked out, and another vote must take place.

Orange County lawmakers supported a bill that could unravel Gov. Ron DeSantis’ takeover of governance of Walt Disney World property. But a GOP walkout means another vote must be held before the bill can proceed.

Sen. Linda Stewart, an Orlando Democrat, presented a local bill to repeal the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District.

That’s the board put in place by DeSantis after the Florida Legislature dismantled the Reedy Creek Improvement District, a Disney-controlled board effectively allowing the theme park to self-govern.

Stewart’s legislation would re-enact Reedy Creek.

“Nine months under this new board has created over 11 major issues,” Stewart said. “There is no transparency, no RFPs (requests for proposals). The morale of the employees is horrible, and so many other politically motivated changes have occurred. It affects the Disney plan.”

Last week, the district fired four senior staffers, including the communications director and human resources executive, a move first reported by Florida Politics. That occurred shortly after a report by Seeking Rents that 30 district employees had quit since the district’s takeover.

The legislative delegation voted 7-0 in favor of the local bill, though that notably occurred after Republican lawmakers walked out of the meeting over a separate disagreement on delegation rules.

After the vote took place, state Rep. Anna Eskamani, an Orlando Democrat and chair of the delegation, said she was informed a forum had to be present to advance the bill. The combination of members who walked out and those who did not attend left only seven lawmakers in place for the bill, but there must be at least eight to hold a binding vote.

Initially, Eskamani said excused absences would not count against a quorum vote, but learned that’s not the case.

“Since our rules are silent on excused absences, we have to use House rules,” Eskamani told Florida Politics, “and House rules don’t care if absences are excused or not.”

Walkouts included Sen. Dennis Baxley, an Ocala Republican whose district includes the Disney resort property. Rep. Carolina Amesty, a Windermere Republican, was not at the delegation meeting and had an excused absence.

Stewart said the presentation of the bill at a meeting kicks off a 30-day required public input period.

Democrats control the Orange County Legislative Delegation, but Republicans hold supermajorities in the Florida House and Senate.

DeSantis decried the existence of Reedy Creek after Disney publicly opposed a parental rights law, widely decried as the “don’t say gay” law, which the Governor signed.

Disney, one of the largest employers in the state, since has sued Florida over the elimination of the district, calling it political retribution and an attempt to undermine 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].


  • PeterH

    November 29, 2023 at 12:46 pm

    With DeSantis paving the way in his culture war …… lack of skill set to manage a very complex district is to be expected. Think of the damage if DeSantis ever received a chance to sit in the Oval Office.

    Republicans are America’s worst enemy!

    Vote all Republicans out of office!

  • Sandra Mediavilla

    November 30, 2023 at 2:06 am

    The article didn’t say when the next session will be held. It sounds like there’s a good chance the original Reedy Creek District will be restored back to what it once was and before long things will get back to normal in that area. Things ran just fine as planned by Walt Disney when he purchased the property in 1963 and when Disney World opened in 1971.
    DeSantis had no business interfering with this for his own political gain and free publicity. He’s never going to win the election anyway.

Comments are closed.


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