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Disney, migrant relocation, election crimes and more expected in next week's special lawmaking session

'I mean, it's really not how the legislative process is supposed to work,' House Minority Leader Rep. Fentrice Driskell says
Posted at 7:24 PM, Feb 03, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-03 19:24:32-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Lawmakers will return to Tallahassee next week for another special session. This time they want to tackle much more than Disney's special privileges.

Legislative leaders sent out their memo Friday afternoon with five major topics set for consideration next week and potentially beyond.

Cutting powers from the Reedy Creek Improvement District is still among the GOP majority's top goals. The taxing district allows Disney to run the land around its Orlando parks like a county government. Lawmakers plan to establish a state board to oversee it while shielding taxpayers from the company’s more than $700 million of debt.

Earlier this week, Republicans said the effort is about public accountability. That's despite the changes following Disney's criticism of what some call the "Don’t Say Gay" bill (HB1557). Formally known as "Parental Rights in Education," the new law limits teaching sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third-grade classrooms.

"We've been in a culture war in this country for 50 years," state Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay. "The only difference is, in Florida, Republicans have decided to pick up a weapon and fight back."

Beyond Disney, the special session will include a new migrant transport program, seeking to revise Florida's current one — potentially avoiding additional court conflicts. The state is already involved in litigation for flying about 50 migrants from South Texas to Martha's Vineyard, last year.

Lawmakers also want a statewide prosecutor to handle election crimes. That could bolster the power of Florida's new Election Crimes Office.

"The State Constitution affords the Statewide Prosecutor concurrent jurisdiction with the state attorneys to prosecute certain violations of criminal laws that impact multiple jurisdictions," House Speaker Rep. Paul Renner, R-Palm Coast, said in his memo to the House members. "State law generally provides the office with the ability to prosecute election crimes. The legislation will clarify the Office of Statewide Prosecution's jurisdiction to prosecute crimes involving elections for federal or state office, and petition activities."

In addition, there will be more work on the state's name, image, and likeness law, or NIL. It allows student-athlete compensation. Lawmakers said they want to avoid conflicts with new NCAA regulations.

"While college sports are not high on my list of priorities when compared with the many other serious issues we must address each session, sporting events do contribute greatly to our local economies and the sense of community in many parts of the state," Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, said in her memo. "Therefore, I recognize the need to address this issue in a timely manner, so our university teams can remain competitive."

Finally, the Legislature plans to consider adding additional funds to help with recovery from Hurricane Ian and Hurricane Nicole.

While some of these measures will likely see bipartisan support, Democrats worry the GOP majority is rushing all of this.

"It's almost rising to the point of an abusive process, using special sessions in this way," House Minority Leader Rep. Fentrice Driskell, D-Tampa, said. "I mean, it's really not how the legislative process is supposed to work."

Even so, the special session gavels in Monday afternoon.