TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The Republican-controlled Florida Legislature is expected to hold a special session next week, where it will deal directly with Disney World’s Reedy Creek Improvement District.
Bryan Griffin, a spokesperson for Gov. Ron DeSantis, confirmed in a statement Tuesday that “the governor’s office anticipates a special session next week on Reedy Creek, and other items,” a signal that the governor’s office could be increasing pressure to get something done ahead of the regular session that is scheduled to start in early March. Under Florida law, the governor can call a special session on his own, or legislative leaders can agree to hold one.
Griffin did not provide any additional details on what the “other items” are going to be. There was no immediate comment from House and Senate leaders about the special session.
Reedy Creek Improvement District is the name of the special district that was created by Florida legislators more than 50 years ago and which has largely been governed by the entertainment conglomerate for more than five decades.
Last year, legislators moved quickly to dissolve Reedy Creek during a special session after Disney officials spoke out against a new law restricting how sexual orientation and gender identity are addressed in public schools. The measure, called “Don’t Say Gay” by its opponents, prohibits educators from leading classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity for students in kindergarten through third grade. LGBTQ+ advocates say the measure could lead students to increased bullying or even suicide.
While DeSantis was not the initial driving force behind the controversial law, he became a champion of it and was instrumental in pushing through the plan to strip Disney of its special status in the aftermath. DeSantis, now seen as likely presidential contender, repeatedly used his battle against Disney on the campaign trail last year as an example of his resistance to “woke” corporations.
But while legislators passed a bill targeting Reedy Creek they did not address ongoing questions about district debts and whether they would be shifted to local taxpayers.
A spokesperson for Disney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
DeSantis has pledged that a plan would be developed to ensure that taxpayers wouldn’t be responsible for the debts. In early January, the administration said it had come up with a proposal that would have the state control the special district and at same time ensure that Disney would be responsible for any debts previously incurred.
“The corporate kingdom has come to an end,” Taryn Fenske, a spokesperson for DeSantis, said earlier this month.
State Sen. Linda Stewart, an Orlando Democrat whose central Florida district is close to Disney World, said in a message that “we have not received anything yet! Just been hearing rumors for the last couple of weeks.”
DeSantis has relied more and more on special sessions to take care of high priority legislation, a move that guarantees more sustained media coverage — including among friendly conservative outlets — than during the somewhat hectic 60-day regular session where multiple controversial issues may be considered at once. State legislators in Florida are already expected to take up a major expansion of vouchers, a measure to eliminate concealed weapons permitting and possibly new abortion restrictions in the session scheduled to start in March.
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