Not quite the 2023 News Story of the Year: DeSantis presidential run; Property insurance; Reedy Creek saga

by | Dec 26, 2023

  • Governor Ron DeSantis’ presidential campaign dominated Florida’s political landscape, influencing state and national politics.
  • Florida’s property insurance crisis escalated, affecting homeowners and sparking legislative debates.
  • The state’s bold move against the Reedy Creek Improvement District challenged longstanding corporate privileges, highlighting state-corporate dynamics.

Every year, we sift through some of the biggest stories, pivotal events and ongoing narratives that have the most impact on Florida. This year, we identified three stories that were almost, but not quite big enough to earn the title “2023 News Story of the Year.” Here they are, in order, and why, ultimately, they didn’t make the final cut.

Governor Ron DeSantis’ Presidential Campaign: Governor Ron DeSantis’ entry into the presidential race had far-reaching implications that span time and distance. In reality, this story stretches as far back as 2021, when many Republicans, disillusioned with Donald Trump, began searching for a successor. From that point forward over the last two years, everything DeSantis has done has been viewed through the prism of presidential politics – and many would argue that even DeSantis himself used that prism to guide his actions.

The end result is that his campaign, or even just the prospect of it, not only dominated the state’s political discourse but also had significant implications at the national level. DeSantis’ stance on various policy issues, ranging from education to immigration and economic policies, resonated with a broad segment of the electorate. He officially entered the race in late May, and over the last seven months, he’s been active both at home in Florida and across the country on the campaign trail. As 2023 draws to a close, his first real test, the Iowa Caucus, is just over two weeks away. Down significantly to Trump according to the polls, the looming question is whether or not his aggressive door-knocking strategy will pay dividends. And then, even if he posts a strong showing there, can he sustain it?

Expect 2024 to bring DeSantis’s political future into crisp, sharp focus.

Why isn’t DeSantis’s presidential campaign the 2023 News Story of the Year?  Simply put, while it had a wide-ranging impact across a number of public policy areas and impacted Floridians indirectly, it’s possible that many of those policies might have been implemented regardless of whether or not DeSantis was a candidate for president. 

Property Insurance Crisis in Florida: The property insurance crisis in Florida reached a critical point in 2023, impacting a large number of homeowners and becoming a central topic in state politics. As residents faced skyrocketing premiums and challenges in securing reliable insurance coverage, the industry seesawed back and forth, with still more companies leaving the state – and property owners in the lurch – while new companies came in to fill the gap. Lawmakers passed even more insurance reforms, but urged patience, saying the market changes would take time to make an impact.

Why didn’t the property insurance crisis win 2023 News Story of the Year? It might have, but Florida got extremely lucky this year and dodged an insurance nightmare scenario: only one hurricane made landfall in the state in 2023, and though it was powerful, it missed all major population areas, saving insurers billions and keeping the state on the path to recovery. 

Reedy Creek Improvement District Legislation: The state government’s decision to challenge the special privileges of the Reedy Creek Improvement District represented a bold stance against the influence of a major corporate entity in Florida. This move was not just a significant political development but also a critical examination of the relationship between state authorities and powerful corporate interests. The implications of this decision were far-reaching, affecting economic, legal, and political dynamics within the state.

Did Republican lawmakers, acting at the behest of Governor DeSantis, strip Disney’s control over Reedy Creek as an act of political revenge? That’s Disney’s argument. Meanwhile, DeSantis and his allies say, no, Disney just got “too big for its breeches” and had been given too many special privileges.

And while the answer to the aforementioned question is still being litigated in court, the issue nevertheless raised big questions about governance, regulatory oversight, and the role of corporations in shaping policy and infrastructure development – and the balance between state and local power along those same lines. No matter which side one is on, the Reedy Creek situation has been a corporate black eye for Disney, and while it’s earned DeSantis a feather in his conservative cap for being willing to take on a corporate powerhouse, many in his same party are openly wondering if it wasn’t a bit too heavy-handed.

Why didn’t the Reedy Creek saga earn 2023 News Story of the Year honors?  The case has significant ramifications across a number of policy and legal areas, and has remained one of the top business stories of the year. Disney CEO Bob Iger, in power since Bob Chapek was sacked in late 2022 over this and other related issues, continues to wage war with DeSantis in the news, on earnings calls, and with reporters whenever it comes up. But while it was a major water cooler topic in both business and political circles, it largely has no impact on every day Floridians. 

These three stories, each significant in its own right, collectively paint a picture of a state at the forefront of the legal, business and political conversation. But none of them measured up to our choice for The Capitolist’s 2023 News Story of the Year. Stay tuned…


%d bloggers like this: