LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced on Tuesday that he is calling on lawmakers to consider legislation in a special session to dismantle special protections for Disney operating in Florida following the company’s opposition to a controversial parental rights bill.
The Parental Rights in Education law has also been referred to by its critics as the "Don't Say Gay" bill.
As Florida lawmakers talk about eliminating independent special districts, many in Central Florida wonder how Disney's Reedy Creek Improvement District will be impacted.
"I was shocked that they brought it in for a special session," said University of Central Florida professor of political science Aubrey Jewett, adding that there is "at least a 50-50 chance the bill could pass and that Reedy Creek could be on the way to extinction."
So what exactly is the Reedy Creek Improvement District? Jewett said it was created in the 1960s to bring tourism to Central Florida.
"The Legislature basically created this government for Disney, so Disney would have a much smoother and easier path as they develop Disney World."
Jewett said around 50 people live in the cities of Bay Lake and Lake Buena Vista, where Disney is located, but it’s operated by Reedy Creek.
"They each have a city commission, and when they meet, they basically turn over the operation of the cities to Reedy Creek."
According to Jewett, Reedy Creek deals with the millions of visitors who come to Walt Disney World Resort. Many questions remain over what would happen should the special district be dismantled.
"Presumably, the power would be transferred to Orange and Osceola primarily, but we don’t know," Jewett said.
This is why Jewett said this issue should be brought up during regular session, rather than special session of the Florida Legislature, which would allow for more time to get answers to those questions.
Jewett described this as a political move by Gov. DeSantis.
"The real motivation seems to be to punish Disney for speaking out against the ‘Don’t say Gay' bill."
Jewett said taking away Reedy Creek would put all theme parks on an even level; however, he questions the timing of a vote now.
"From a policy standpoint, it's crazy. You shouldn’t be rushing into this, even if your motive was pure."