DeSantis expected to control Disney district governing board
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Gov. Ron DeSantis would take control over the board of a special governing district Walt Disney World operates in Florida under a bill introduced Monday, as the Republican governor punishes the company over its opposition to the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law.
Republican leaders in the statehouse, in coordination with DeSantis, have begun a special legislative session to restructure the Reedy Creek Improvement District, as the Disney government is known.
The proposal would largely leave the 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. Members previously were named through entities controlled by Disney.
Lawmakers are also considering a proposal to create a state department focused on migrant transportation, after the governor flew a group of South American migrants from Texas to Massachusetts last year in protest of federal border policy.
The session continues a focus by DeSantis on social issues including sexual orientation, gender and immigration as the Republican governor wades into political divides on his path to a potential 2024 presidential run.
The meeting is the latest development in a high-profile feud between DeSantis and Disney over the company’s criticism of a law dubbed by critics as “Don’t Say Gay,” which bars instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade and lessons deemed not age-appropriate.
The governor, in going after Disney, displayed a willingness to penalize one of the state’s biggest employers and political donors, reinforcing the combative leadership style that has propelled him to national political stardom and appeals to conservative primary voters.
A spokeswoman for Reedy Creek did not immediately return an emailed request for comment.
In addition to Disney, DeSantis is using the special session to advance his national agenda on immigration and election fraud.
Lawmakers are expected to create the Unauthorized Alien Transport Program in the governor’s administration to transport migrants within the country if they have been processed by the federal government.
The legislation comes after DeSantis last year used part of a $12 million fund, paid for by taxpayers, to fly about 50 South American migrants from Texas to the Massachusetts resort island of Martha’s Vineyard, drawing widespread condemnation.
The flight also led to legal questions because the governor’s office paid for the trip using money intended to transport migrants out of Florida, not Texas or any other state.
The bill lawmakers will consider specifies that future flights could move migrants from anywhere in the U.S.