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Florida lawmakers may return to Tallahassee next week for Disney special session

'A private company should not be able to direct government policy,' Rep. Randy Fine says
Posted at 5:34 PM, Feb 03, 2023
and last updated 2023-02-03 17:34:30-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — It sounds more and more likely Florida lawmakers will return as early as next week to strip away some of Disney's special district powers. The governor continues suggesting it is happening as anticipation of another special session grows in Tallahassee.

The latest nod was during apress gathering in Milton. The Republican said the Reedy Creek Improvement District was a main target.

"I think they're going to do a special session in a week or two," Gov. Ron DeSantis said. "I think maybe next week, about a whole bunch of different things — including making sure that Disney doesn't have self-governing status anymore. That's done!"

A day prior, DeSantis said the state would seek to take over the district's governing board, that their legal privileges would be pruned, and that the company would have to pay off its debt of more than $700 million without risk to taxpayers.

Reedy Creek has existed since the late 1960s, allowing Disney to operate almost 40 square miles of land around its Orlando parks like a county government.

GOP lawmakers voted to sunset it last year after the company took issue with the Parental Rights in Education (HB 1557) law. It limits the teaching of sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third-grade classrooms.

State Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, carried the Disney bill last time. He hoped this new legislation would have broad implications.

"A private company should not be able to direct government policy. That's just bad public policy," Fine said. "The big thing that could come out of this is saying that, you know, we have lots of special districts in Florida, but they will all be accountable to the people, not to any one private company."

But will we see that policy by Monday?

Lawmakers are mixed. Some told us, on background, the bill still needs work and that next week's legislative schedule is too busy for a special session. Others said the legislation is ready and expected it to hit its first committee Wednesday.

Democrats, meanwhile, have said they are in the dark on the Reedy Creek plans — only hearing rumors. State Sen. Shevrin Jones, D-Miami Gardens, said it was a further sign the parties have become fractured under a GOP supermajority.

"There was a time with Democrats and Republicans, and the State of Florida, truly, truly worked together," Jones said. "It's unfortunate. It's sad that at the end of the day, the actual people who are hurting — who will be hurt by this — are Floridians."