Florida lawmakers are anticipated to vote Thursday on a proposal to provide Gov. Ron DeSantis new energy over the state’s most iconic theme parks amid his ongoing feud with Disney.
Below a fast-tracked invoice that could possibly be headed to the Republican governor’s desk by the top of the week, the state would take over the Reedy Creek Enchancment District, the 55-year-old authorities physique that has successfully given Disney management over the land round its Orlando-area theme parks. The district’s present board, made up of people with shut ties to Disney, would get replaced by a five-member board hand-picked by DeSantis.
The state Home, the place Republicans maintain a supermajority, will take up the invoice Thursday with a vote by the state Senate doubtless inside the subsequent 36 hours. If the measure passes the GOP-led legislature, it would go to DeSantis for remaining approval. He’s anticipated to signal it.
“There’s a brand new sheriff on the town, and that’s simply the best way it’s going to be,” DeSantis stated at Wednesday information convention.
The transfer to take over Reedy Creek is the newest step in a yearlong spat between DeSantis and Disney over a invoice to limit sure classroom instruction about sexual orientation and gender id. DeSantis signed the invoice into legislation over the objections of Disney’s then-CEO Bob Chapek. Disney in a press release vowed to assist get the legislation repealed or struck down by the courts.
DeSantis responded to the menace by calling on lawmakers to strip Disney of its particular governing powers, which they did in a particular session final yr, voting to dissolve the Reedy Creek Enchancment District on the finish of Might 2023.
Nonetheless, whereas DeSantis rapidly turned his takedown of Disney into fodder for stump speeches and fundraising emails, lawmakers on the time failed to handle what would come subsequent for the particular district. Neither DeSantis nor lawmakers outlined a plan to unwind a half-century of Disney management or for the way to make sure Orange and Osceola county residents wouldn’t be on the hook for funding Reedy Creek companies or its $1 billion in debt. Amid the fallout, Reedy Creek instructed its bondholders that Florida couldn’t dissolve the district with out assuming its money owed or it could violate the 1967 state legislation that created the district. Fitch Rankings Group put Reedy Creek Enchancment District’s debt on look ahead to a unfavourable bond score.
The invoice launched this week in a particular session of the Florida legislature would hold Reedy Creek alive, albeit underneath a brand new title, the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, and with a DeSantis-aligned board in cost. The laws makes clear that the adjustments to Reedy Creek mustn’t have an effect on the district’s present debt or contracts and would prolong the lifetime of the district past June.
The ultimate web page of the 189-page invoice states: “The Reedy Creek Enchancment District just isn’t dissolved as of June 1, 2023, however continues in full drive and impact underneath its new title.”
In a press release to CNN earlier this week, Jeff Vahle, the president of Walt Disney World Resort, stated the corporate is “monitoring the development of the draft laws, which is complicated given the lengthy historical past of the Reedy Creek Enchancment District.”
“Disney works underneath quite a few completely different fashions and jurisdictions around the globe, and whatever the final result, we stay dedicated to offering the very best high quality expertise for the tens of millions of company who go to annually,” Vahle stated.
Michael Rinaldi, the top of native authorities rankings at Fitch, stated the invoice “seems to handle key uncertainties created following final yr’s dissolution laws” and would doubtless resolve the unfavourable bond score watch.
The Reedy Creek particular district encompasses about 25,000 acres in Orange and Osceola counties and consists of 4 theme parks, two water parks, one sports activities complicated, 175 lane miles of roadway, 67 miles of waterway and the cities of Bay Lake and Lake Buena Vista, its web site says. The association has allowed Disney to develop into a large mecca for family-friendly tourism and a main driver of Central Florida’s economic system, utilizing the district’s distinctive borrowing and taxing powers to construct infrastructure across the theme parks.
Below present legislation, the board for Reedy Creek has been made up of landowners with shut ties to Disney. The invoice launched Monday makes clear that not one of the appointees chosen by the governor could be latest Disney staff or their family members, nor that of a competitor. The state Senate, the place Republicans additionally maintain a supermajority, would have remaining approval of the appointees.
“We’re taking one problematic swamp and we’re creating one other swamp by permitting for one particular person to nominate all 5 positions,” stated Rep. Anna Eskamani, an Orlando Democrat who authored an unsuccessful modification to get native elected leaders on the board. “And the one cause I can see is as a result of Disney made the governor large mad by defending LGBTQ+ children.”
The invoice would hold lots of the district’s present powers, although it could finish sure never-exercised capabilities to construct an airport or a nuclear energy plant and would restrict the usage of eminent area outdoors the district’s boundaries to grab land that could possibly be used to learn Disney.
“These actions guarantee a state-controlled district accountable to the folks as an alternative of a corporate-controlled kingdom,” DeSantis spokesman Jeremy Redfern stated.