Republican lawmakers put forth the HB 9B bill on Monday to change Disney’s Reedy Creek Improvement District’s name. The bill would also give Florida governor Ron DeSantis the power to create a new five person board of appointees to oversee the district.
The 189 page bill would keep the special district in place, but would change the name to be “Central Florida Tourism Oversight District.” It also calls for a new five member board, but this time the board would be chosen by DeSantis and approved by the Senate. One of the requirements is that those individuals must not have worked for a theme park in the past three years and they can not be landowners in the district or relatives on either stipulation. Which means that Disney can’t put members or relatives of Disney employees on the board.
What the bill does is allow the district to stay in place, but the name will change and a board will oversee it.
For two years they will allow it to operate under the current name, however it will be a fictitious name for the “Central Florida Tourism Oversight District” while all the other associated paperwork is transferred to the new official name. That isn’t unusual when a name is being changed officially.
The bill would also stop Disney from using public funds to advertise their park, attractions, etc.
It was cited by Republican Rep. Fred Hawkins, who put forth the bill, calling Disney’s use of public funds for advertising “an unfair advantage to the Universal, SeaWorld, Busch Gardens of the world.”
Because the district is remaining in tact, the debts and bonds owed by Disney will not be transferred to tax payers. By keeping the district and appointing a board, that reports to the Governor, the President of the Senate and The Speaker of the House, this allows more control over the area. As the district stands now Disney could allegedly redraw boundaries, build a power plant or an airport if they wished. That would change under this new entity.
Disney would also not be able to solely control how and where roads are added and they can’t toll roads on property.
Overall the bill seemingly limits Disney’s autonomy and gives the state more control.
Opponents of the bill question the stipulation that the board no longer be elected but appointed by DeSantis.
Democrat State Representative, Anna Eskamani said:
“They should rename the district to ‘Disney is the Governor’s Political Prisoner’ since that’s pretty much what the bill does. It’s a power grab by DeSantis and allows him to appoint more of his friends to positions of power.”
“Disney still gets perks but they’re now a political prisoner of the governor.”
Opponents also likened it to “Socialism” under DeSantis.
Others suggest that the changes allow the people more power over the corporation. Like political scientist Aubrey Jewett (University of Central Florida.)
“The people who currently serve on Reedy Creek’s board always have Disney’s best interest at heart. That’s why they are there. New appointees will not necessarily have that as their primary mission.”
Walt Disney World President, Jeff Vahle said that Disney was monitoring the legislation:
“Disney works under a number of different models and jurisdictions around the world, and regardless of the outcome, we remain committed to providing the highest quality experience for the millions of guests who visit each year.“
WDWNT has a great breakdown of it on their site as well.
What do you think? Comment and let us know!
Sources: CNN, Orlando Sentinel, Tampa Bay Times, WDWNT
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