- State lawmakers approved a series of measures this week as part of a special session.
- The bills covered a range of policies including the transportation of suspected illegal migrants, confirmation of the state’s takeover of Disney’s Reedy Creek Improvement District, and revamping election crime prosecution laws.
- The legislature also passed a bill revamping the state’s Name, Image, and Likeness law for collegiate athletes.
- All of the bills now head to the desk of Gov. Ron DeSantis to be signed into law.
State lawmakers worked quickly this week to approve a series of key special session measures that includes granting new powers to Gov. Ron DeSantis in transporting illegal migrants, the state’s takeover of Disney’s Reedy Creek Improvement District, and measures to help the statewide prosecutor new jurisdiction to investigate potential election crimes.
The Florida House voted to pass the ‘Transportation of Inspected Unauthorized Aliens‘ bill by a margin of 77 to 34 along party lines. The stamp of approval comes two days after the bill was approved by the Senate, also along party lines. The bill creates the ‘Unauthorized Alien Transport Program,’ which will operate under the Department of Emergency Management, and grants the agency powers to transport suspected unauthorized migrants within the entire United States. The bill appropriates $10 million for the program.
Republicans cited the ongoing influx of migrants at the nation’s southern border and Florida’s shorelines, following up on an Executive Order signed by DeSantis in January that activated the National Guard and diverted resources in response to several hundred migrants arriving in Key West.
“The Legislature finds that the Federal Government has failed to secure the nation’s borders and has allowed a surge inspected unauthorized aliens to enter the United States,” reads the bill. “Without such action, detrimental effects may be experienced in Florida, including increased crime, diminished economic opportunities and wages for American workers, and burdens on the education and health care systems.”
State Democrats were fierce in their opposition to the measure, calling the move a stunt involving human lives and an attempt for DeSantis to elevate his national profile ahead of a suspected Presidential run.
“Today, many of my colleagues voted for a bill that authorizes $10 million for Ron DeSantis to round up undocumented immigrants from across the country, not in Florida, and traffick them to progressive states in an effort to win political points for his bid for president,” said State Rep. Angie Nixon. “Saying this man is out of control is an understatement.”
The Senate voted 29 to 6 on Friday to approve HB-9B, a bill that would rename Disey’s Reedy Creek Improvement District — a special district allowing the company to act as its own municipal government — to ‘the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District,’ as well as grant DeSantis the power to appoint members to the five-person Board of Supervisors, pending subsequent confirmation by the state Senate.
Representatives in the state House approved the bill by an 82 to 31 vote on Wednesday.
DeSantis set his sights on Reedy Creek last year after Disney publicly opposed a law that restricts instruction about gender identity and sexual orientation in schools.
As a result, House lawmakers swiftly passed a bill (SB 4-C) to officially eliminate the special district but gave until June of this year for lawmakers to establish necessary policy provisions.
“Until Governor DeSantis acted, the Walt Disney Company maintained sole control over the District. This power amounted to an unaccountable corporate kingdom,” the Office of the Governor told The Capitolist.
The bill now heads to the governor’s desk where it will be signed and championed as an effort to stand up to corporate overreach.
On Friday, the House also adopted SB-4B on a 77 to 33 vote, which seeks to give the statewide prosecutor broader authority in investigating charges of election fraud. The vote follows the Senate vote on the bill, which passed 27 to 12 along party lines.
The legislation comes after DeSantis launched a voter fraud investigation that culminated in the arrest of 20 people accused of voting illegally in 2020. However, the effort ran into legal obstacles, including one where a court rejected a case against a defendant on the grounds that the state prosecutor had overstepped its authority.
The measure would enable the DeSantis administration to refer possible election crimes that cross two or more jurisdictions and are investigated by the Office of Elections, Crimes, and Security to a prosecutor chosen by Attorney General Ashley Moody, rather than local district attorneys.
Elsewhere, the House and Senate both unanimously passed a bill targeting college athlete Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) compensation.