A huge part of how Disney World has operated in Orlando could be dramatically changing soon.
Following Disney’s statements against Florida’s Parental Rights in Education bill (what critics called “Don’t Say Gay”), the Florida legislature and Governor signed a bill into law that will dissolve Disney’s Reedy Creek Improvement District (“RCID”) in June of 2023. The RCID functions essentially as its own county government and has given Disney a huge amount of control over the land on which it operates in Orlando for 50+ years. Recently, a bill was introduced into the Florida House of Representatives that would dramatically change the RCID, but some more changes could be made to the bill. Let’s take a look at what’s going on!
By way of a brief overview, the RCID currently has a Board of Supervisors that make key decisions and manage the district. That Board is selected by the landowners in the District, and with Disney owning nearly all of the land in the District, that has given Disney the chance to put “friendly” faces in positions of power.
The bill proposed in the Florida House would change that by making the Board full of individuals nominated by the Florida Governor. It would also strip the RCID of certain powers it once had (like powers surrounding the creation of a nuclear power plant) and would restrict other perks it had (by requiring the District to make certain reports, restricting the District’s spending authority in some ways, and removing the District’s blanket exemption from state land use codes).
For more about the bill, click here.
Various amendments have now been proposed to HB 9B, currently called the “Reedy Creek Improvement District, Orange and Osceola Counties” bill. You can see all details and amendments on the Florida House of Representatives website. Let’s break down the key ones here!
The Bill was referred to the State Affairs Committee on February 6th and will be discussed by the Committee on February 8th at 2PM ET.
UPDATE: The State Affairs Committee meeting was held and all amendments, except for one related to the technical, legal description of the land of the District, failed. After debate on the bill and its amendments, the members of the committee took a vote and the bill was reported favorably. It appears the bill will hit the House floor on February 9th.
One Amendment, proposed by Representative Anna Eskamani (D), suggests that some of the terms surrounding the Board of Supervisors for the new District be revised. Under the original bill, the new Board would consist of 5 members all appointed by the Florida Governor and confirmed by the Senate.
Eskamani has suggested that instead the Board of Supervisors be made of 7 members. Under this proposal, 3 would be appointed by the Cabinet and confirmed by the Senate. 1 member would be the mayor of Orange County, 1 member would be the chair of the Osceola Board of County Commissioners, 1 member would be the mayor of Orlando, and 1 member would be the mayor of Kissimmee.
That could make the membership more heavily tied to the Orlando area and those whose areas would be impacted by things at Disney World/Reedy Creek, and less tied to the Governor directly.
Another amendment, proposed by Representative Harris suggests a different addition be made regarding the Board of Supervisors. Harris has suggested that the following be added to the bill: “Any person who has previously contributed to a political committee affiliated with the Governor or made a campaign contribution for the election of the Governor.”
Keep in mind that this change does not appear to take Eskamani’s amendment into account. Instead, it seems that it would mainly apply in the event that the Governor does get to appoint the Board of Directors. This requirement could add a level of independence, potentially calming the fears some may have that the Governor would simply fill the Board of Supervisors with those who have donated to their campaign.
Another amendment also seeks to add a greater level of independence between the new Board of Supervisors and the Governor/Florida Legislature. Specifically, Eskamani has proposed an amendment that would make sure that the district administrator (who is appointed by the Board) has NOT “held any elected office during the 10 years immediately preceding his or her appointment and may not have made any campaign contributions to the Governor or any political committee affiliated with the Governor.”
This incorporates part of Harris’ amendment but also attempts to ensure a level of independence for the district administrator.
Eskamani has suggested a similar amendment for the general counsel the Board may employ for legal services. Specifically, Eskamani’s amendment would require the firm providing general counsel services and legal services to the District to ensure that no partner or shareholder of the firm has “[s]erved as an elected official during the 10 years immediately preceding such appointment or contracting.”
They would also have to make sure that no partner or shareholder of the firm has “[m]ade any political contribution to the campaign of the Governor, or to a political committee affiliated with the Governor, serving at the time of such appointment or contracting.”
In another proposal, Representative Harris has recommended that an amendment be added to the bill that would make sure the Governor (on his/her own behalf of on behalf of another person) cannot “accept anything of value, including, but not limited to, campaign contributions or transportation free of charge on privately owned aircraft, from a vendor, contractor, company, or other person financially affiliated with the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District.”
Again, the amendment seems designed to create a sense of separation between the Governor and the Board.
Finally, another amendment from Eskamani truly hits on some of the issues certain individuals have raised with this entire Reedy Creek situation. Eskamani has suggested that an amendment be made to rename the new district “Florida’s Attempt to Silence Critical and Independent Speech and Thought.” This is where we see a real sense of Eskamani “firing back” at the proposed changes regarding Reedy Creek.
Some have viewed the entire dissolution of the RCID to be an act of retaliation by the Governor and other legislators against Disney’s choice to make a strong stance against Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Bill (what critics called the “Don’t Say Gay” bill).
Iger previously held a Town Hall where he shared that he was sorry to see Disney “dragged” into certain political battles.
DeSantis responded by saying, “We didn’t drag them in […] they went in on their own.” In discussing the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, he noted that Disney ” not only opposed the bill, they threatened to get it repealed. These are parents’ rights, important policies in our state that are very popular. They brought this on themselves — all we did was stand up for what is right. Yes, they are a big, powerful company, but […] we stand up for our folks and I don’t care what a Burbank-based, California company says about our laws.”
Keep in mind that the situation with Reedy Creek is still very much up in the air. The bill to rename the district and make key changes to the way it operates will be discussed on February 8th at the State Affairs Committee but it would still ultimately need to be passed by the Florida House and Florida Senate and signed by the Florida Governor to become law.
We’ll continue to keep an eye out for more news about the bill and we’ll let you know what we find. For more about Reedy Creek, see our posts below.
More Reedy Creek News
- “Punitive, Irresponsible” — Former Disney CEO Comments on Reedy Creek Changes
- Bob Iger’s Most Unexpected Pressing Threats
- NEWS: Disney Parks Executive Comments on Reedy Creek’s New Board
- 5 HUGE Changes You Missed in Disney World Last Month
- A Look at the NEW Board Members Who Will Control Disney World’s District
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Do you think these amendments will get incorporated into the bill? Tell us in the comments.