Feb 7, 2023
Florida Lawmakers File Bill to Take Control of Disney Special District Transcript
The legislation would leave the Reedy Creek district and its abilities intact but change its name to the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District and require the governor to appoint a five-member oversight board. Read the transcript here.
Transcribe Your Own Content
Try Rev and save time transcribing, captioning, and subtitling.
Today, lawmakers filed a bill that, if passed, would wipe out the governing body of Walt Disney World. WESH2’s Senait Gebregiorgis is live near the theme park with more on the Reedy Creek Improvement District from both sides of the aisle. Senait?
Senait Gebregiorgis (00:15):
Michelle, if the bill passes, Governor Ron DeSantis will handpick all the board members of Disney World’s Reedy Creek Improvement District. The name would also change within two years. But lawmakers tell me, for the most part, the structure would remain the same, and taxpayers won’t be on the hook.
A step closer to settling Disney’s future, a bill filed during special session Monday promises Orange and Osceola counties that they would not be responsible for Disney’s governing body’s $1 billion in debt.
State Rep. Randy Fine (00:45):
Do we believe that a private company should be able to issue government debt? Think how dangerous that is. That’s why people were so worried.
Senait Gebregiorgis (00:53):
Republican State Rep. Randy Fine of Brevard County helped to drive the bill that would change Disney’s 55-year old government.
State Rep. Randy Fine (01:00):
So no longer can a company govern itself. Now, it’s going to be governed like everybody else in the state of Florida.
Senait Gebregiorgis (01:07):
Since 1967, Reedy Creek Improvement District was head of everything Disney, from fire and rescue service, a security force and utility services. Last year, some believe that, in retaliation for Disney opposing the governor’s so-called Don’t Say Gay Law, Republican-led lawmakers fought to dissolve Reedy Creek.
State Rep. Anna V. Eskamani (01:26):
This is a power grab of Governor Ron DeSantis, and an attempt to essentially prevent Disney from ever expressing the First Amendment right.
Senait Gebregiorgis (01:34):
The bill would change the name to Central Florida Tourism Oversight District. The board members would no longer be appointed by Disney. Governor Ron DeSantis would appoint five board members for up to four-year terms. Theme park and entertainment industry workers who worked in those businesses in the prior three years would not be allowed to serve, something Democratic State Rep. Anna V. Eskamani of Orange County takes issue with.
State Rep. Anna V. Eskamani (01:57):
By prohibiting any worker from participating, you’re not allowing our everyday frontline workers to have a say in how operations within Reedy Creek happen.
Senait Gebregiorgis (02:08):
In a statement sent to WESH2, the president of Walt Disney World Resort said in part, “We’re monitoring the progression of the draft legislation. Regardless of the outcome, we remain committed to providing the highest quality experience for the millions of guests who visit each year.”
The first hearing on the bill is scheduled for Wednesday, but special session ends on Friday, which means this could be a done deal by the end of this week. Reporting live in Orange County, Senait Gebregiorgis, WESH2 News.