TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — In a predominantly party-line vote, the Florida House of Representatives chose to allow the state government to take control of Disney’s Reedy Creek Improvement District. House members voted 82-31 in favor of the bill. There were six who did not vote.
The vote means that the legislation, House Bill 9B, will move to the Florida Senate for consideration on Friday.
Since 1967, RCID has been operated by board members chosen by the Walt Disney Company, with the board responsible for handling local governance in issues such as bond issuance, debt, taxation and millage rates, fire team response, local water treatment and sewage, and other municipal duties.
After Disney’s involvement in the debate over Florida’s Parental Rights in Education bill in 2022, Gov. Ron DeSantis took a forceful approach to stripping the district’s “corporate kingdom” of its power in the area.
The special legislative session to do so has been in progress since Monday, with Thursday’s vote signaling lawmakers were close to finalizing a DeSantis plan to appoint a state-controlled board to control the area going forward.
Under the legislation’s provisions, RCID would be renamed the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District.
As written, the state will give RCID two years to phase out its processes of doing business under the Reedy Creek name, in order for the newly reformatted entity to change records, contracts, bonds, accounts, physical assets, and other relevant items without impeding its functional requirements.
Additionally, as described by the governor’s office, the bill makes changes to what can be controlled by the company regarding developments at Walt Disney World, including removal of a provision in the original charter for the district that could have allowed them to build a nuclear fission reactor.
If the bill is passed, the reformatted district will also be able to issue bonds, including general obligation bonds, revenue bonds, assessment bonds, or any other bonds or obligations authorized by the provisions of HB 9B, as well as provide for funding of projects, facilities, district activity, retirement or refunding of bonds or financial obligations, or any combination of those needs.
HB 9B is now in what’s known as “messages,” with Florida senators to review the legislation, potentially amending certain portions, Friday.
After the legislation drafts were published, a Disney spokesman said “We are monitoring the progression of the draft legislation, which is complex given the long history of the Reedy Creek Improvement District,” but did not indicate if they would try to contest the outcome should the bill pass.
Instead, Disney stated at the time that they “remain committed to providing the highest quality experience” for their guests.
WFLA.com has reached out to the Walt Disney Company with questions about what their plans are, should the Florida Senate pass the legislation and it be signed into law by Gov. DeSantis.
This is a developing story, we will update with more details as they become available.