The Florida Senate on Wednesday passed a bill aimed at stripping Disney of special privileges of self-government it has held for over 55 years, allowing it to independently oversee its theme park area.
The Republican-led House is expected to approve the measure, which would go into effect June 1, 2023. Gov. Ron DeSantis has signaled that he will sign the bill after calling on state lawmakers yesterday to consider it in an amended special session.
The move is considered to be in retaliation for Disney’s opposition of the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” legislation restricting classroom instruction on sexuality and gender. The potential impact to Disney and the counties where its theme park sits is unclear. The company’s special district, created in 1967 and known as the Reedy Creek Improvement District, affords Disney the authority to act as its own county with the ability to impose taxes, adopt ordinances and provide emergency services on land that’s home to its sprawling theme park resort, among other powers.
Disney didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
The feud between Florida lawmakers and Disney started when the company vowed to push for repeal of the Parental Rights in Education Law. It initially stayed silent on the legislation but later opposed it under pressure from employees.
Under the proposal, which passed 23-16 on Wednesday, independent special districts that were created prior to 1968 and haven’t been renewed since then will be eliminated. It includes a provision allowing for re-establishment after they’re dissolved.
Oversight of the area will likely belong to the Orange and Osceola counties, where Disney’s theme parks are located.
There’s been no analysis on the economic impact of Reedy Creek and the fallout of what will happen if it’s eliminated. Currently, Disney and residents of the land it owns in Orlando bear the cost of maintaining the resort, including paying for emergency and waste management services. The special district doesn’t exempt Disney from paying property taxes.