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Bills Curbing Disney's Special District and Social Media Exemption Advance

Sen Bradley.jpg
Photo courtesy The Florida Channel
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The Senate's Community Affairs Committee approved both bills by votes of 6 to 3. They’ve now moved on for final consideration by the full legislature.

Tallahassee - Wednesday April 20, 2022: Governor DeSantis came under fire Tuesday from Democrats in the Senate’s Community Affairs Committee over the 2 bills he submitted to lawmakers at the start of the ongoing special session on re-districting.

One of the measures removes the theme park exemption in a bill targeting companies that censor conservative speech, an exemption carved out for Disney last year in a bill that has since been ruled unconstitutional by a federal court which issued a temporary injunction blocking it. The Governor’s bill removing that exemption was introduced by Republican Senator Jennifer Bradley. She said the intent is to remove the theme park exemption to satisfy the court’s objection. “This bill makes clear to the court that it is the opinion of the legislature and ultimately the governor that we intent for this bill to apply to those entities," said Sen. Bradley.

However Democrat Senators Janet Cruz and Gary Farmer weren’t buying it. They called the measure the Governor’s attempt to punish Disney for its opposition to the Parental Rights in Education bill, that critics have called the 'Don’t Say Gay' Bill.

“That’s what this is about," said Sen. Cruz. "We’ll get ya, if you say anything that a Governor who’s running for President doesn’t want you to say." Sen. Farmer called it "an act of political payback by our Governor.”

The other measure proposed by the Governor would terminate Disney’s special jurisdiction, the Reedy Creek Improvement District, by June 1 of 2023, unless lawmakers decide to revise the terms of the District at their next Session, before then.

Republican Sen. Bradly was again called on to introduce it. “There remain 6 Special Districts that have not had any legislative oversight what-so-ever for over 50 years. And so the bill says, let’s start that oversight. And I do believe that it is reasonable to say that Disney and Reedy Creek is not above Legislative oversight."

Democratic Senator Tina Polsky opposed. “We haven’t pointed to one thing that we thought Reedy Creek has done wrong that the independent special district needs to be taken away. All of this going after our number one attraction in the state makes no fiscal sense. And what’s the end goal. Do we want Disney to shut down? That we don’t need the tourism dollars? We don’t need the tax dollars?”

The only other republican on the committee to speak in support of the 2 bills was Travis Hutson.

“Looking at this independent District, they have a whole host of exemptions from local government, and pretty much they can do whatever they want. So, I’m willing to have this conversation today knowing that we will have further conversation on how this will look in the future.”

Both bills were approved by the Committee on Tuesday along partisan lines. The full Senate then approved both bills on Wednesday, also along partisan lines. The Florida House is expected to vote on both measures Thursday.