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Legislature approves bill handing Disney's special district to a governor-appointed board

The Florida Channel
State Sen. Linda Stewart, D-Orlando, spoke against a bill giving a governor-appointed board control of what is currently Disney's Reedy Creek Improvement District in Central Florida.

The Florida Senate voted 26 to 9 Friday to give control of the special district that governs Walt Disney World's property to a board appointed by the governor.

The special session bill now goes to Gov. Ron DeSantis for his signature.

DeSantis targeted Disney's self-governing Reedy Creek Improvement District after the company spoke out on an LGBTQ issue. It opposed a Republican bill banning instruction in early grades about gay and transgender people.

Democratic Sen. Linda Stewart of Orlando says it looks like retaliation and "a mechanism for the governor to take oversight of a private business."

House Speaker Paul Renner said it was mainly about Disney having its own government. The 25,000-acre special district with taxing authority, approved by the Legislature in 1967, was controlled by its property owners -- and Walt Disney World owns the land.

"They're not in charge of themselves anymore," Renner said. "As the sheriff -- as the governor said there's a new sheriff in town, and the people's elected representative, the governor, is making those appointments."

GOP Sen. Travis Hutson of St. Johns County introduced the bill. After the vote, he had this to say: "In about 15 minutes, my wife is taking my kids out of school. We've had this on the books for a couple of months. I know it's ironic, but I am going to Disney World. And I'm just hoping I'm still allowed in."

Hutson said the board appointed by the governor won't be a hostile takeover of the private sector but a government working hand in hand with Disney.

Joe Byrnes came to WMFE/WMFV from the Ocala Star-Banner and The Gainesville Sun, where he worked as a reporter and editor for several years. Joe graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans and turned to journalism after teaching. He enjoys freshwater fishing and family gatherings.
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