TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — State lawmakers have announced their plan to strip Disney of its special powers under the Reedy Creek Improvement District. Officials filed the bill Monday afternoon, shortly after the Legislature gaveled in for this week's special session in Tallahassee.
The policy reigns in Reedy Creek's power, which currently allows Disney to manage about 40 square miles of land around its Orlando theme parks like a county government.
The proposal doesn't eliminate the district, meaning Disney retains its more than $700 million in debt without taxpayers taking on the financial burden. There will be new management, however. A five-person state board would oversee things with appointments by the governor, pending Senate approval. Reedy Creek acquires a new name, too — the "Central Florida Tourism Oversight District."
In a statement, Gov. Ron DeSantis' office highlighted further changes. They include cutting Disney's ability to construct an airport or nuclear power plant inside the district, land acquisition through eminent domain and no-bid building contracts.
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"These actions ensure a state-controlled district, accountable to the people instead of a corporate-controlled kingdom," DeSantis Press Secretary Bryan Griffin said.
Critics continue to call the plan punishment for Disney's speaking out against a new law regulating sex education in Florida schools. State Sen. Jason Pizzo, D-North Miami, had a different name for it.
"It's socialism," Pizzo said. "It's the government controlling the means of production, goods and services, and pricing and governing over corporations. It's socialism."
Republicans have dismissed the allegation. For weeks they've said the changes are about transparency and accountability.
With supermajorities in both chambers, it's likely the GOP will get the policy approved and on DeSantis's desk for signature, presumably by week's end. Even so — the future is uncertain. Many think Disney will file suit, sending Florida into another high-profile legal challenge.
In a statement, Disney executives didn't suggest a lawsuit, only saying they were keeping an eye on things.
"We are monitoring the progression of the draft legislation, which is complex given the long history of the Reedy Creek Improvement District," Walt Disney World Resort President Jeff Vahle said. "Disney works under a number of different models and jurisdictions around the world, and regardless of the outcome, we remain committed to providing the highest quality experience for the millions of guests who visit each year."