The Florida House gave final passage on Thursday to a bill that strips Walt Disney World of its special tax district.
Following a chaotic protest that broke out on the floor regarding a redistricting map pushed by Governor Ron DeSantis, House lawmakers swiftly passed the bill (SB 4-C) in a 70-38 vote, officially eliminating the special district that allows the Walt Disney Co. to self-govern its Orlando-area theme park. Today’s vote comes on the heels of the Senate’s 23-16 vote on Wednesday, and will now head to the Governor’s desk for approval.
The legislation, championed by DeSantis, will dismantle Disney’s longstanding special tax district, known as the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which was created in 1967 and allowed the company to self-govern by collecting taxes and providing emergency services. The special district also exempted Disney from a host of regulations or fees — allowing them to freely operate with little to no red tape — which enabled them to build new structures and pay impact fees for such construction without the approval of a local planning commission.
If signed by the Governor, the bill will sunset Reedy Creek by June 2023, unless the legislature reauthorizes it during the 2023 Legislative Session.
Critics of the bill argue that the move shifts the burden of services the special district provides to Orange and Osceola counties, along with an estimated $1 billion bond debt.
Today’s vote follows a month-long battle between DeSantis and the GOP-led legislature against Mickey Mouse following the company’s response to the recently signed Parental Rights in Education legislation (HB 1557). Signed into law last month, the bill limits “classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity” in K-3 classrooms while also providing parents more transparency regarding curriculum and their child’s mental, physical, and emotional well-being.
Branded the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by critics, the measure sparked national attention and outrage with many on the political left, becoming one of the biggest ‘culture war’ issues in Florida’s 2022 Legislative Session. Disney and other opponents argued that the broad language in the bill harms LGBTQ children and opens school districts to lawsuits from parents who disagree with such topics and discussions.
Republican Rep. Randy Fine, who sponsored the Reedy Creek bill, noted that the bill isn’t retaliatory on Thursday.
“When Disney kicked the hornet’s nest several weeks ago, we started taking a look at special districts and we found that six of them had been created before the Florida Constitution was actually put in place.”