Texarkana Gazette

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.

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