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DeSantis announces expanded special session targeting Walt Disney World property

Florida lawmakers will be asked to consider terminating the state's special districts, specifically the Reedy Creek Improvement District servicing Disney.

THE VILLAGES, Fla. — Gov. Ron DeSantis issued a proclamation to have Florida lawmakers consider the termination of special districts established prior to November 1968, specifically targeting the property of Walt Disney World.

In his opening remarks during a higher education-focused news conference Tuesday in The Villages, DeSantis said he wishes to expand the Legislature's current special session on congressional districts. 

"...They will be considering the congressional map but they also will be considering termination of all special districts that were enacted in Florida prior to 1968, and that includes the Reedy Creek Improvement District," DeSantis said to cheers.

It is continued fallout of Disney's criticism of the state's controversial "Parental Rights in Education" law. Critics have called it the "Don't Say Gay" law because it bars educators from teaching about sexual orientation or gender identity to students in kindergarten through third grade. School districts may opt to ban topics of sexual orientation or gender identity beyond third grade if leaders deem them not to be age or developmentally appropriate. 

Despite Disney's tepid criticism of the legislation prior to its passage, the company has since said it is a "goal...for this law to be repealed by the legislature or struck down in the courts." It continued, in part, "We are dedicated to standing up for the rights and safety of LGBTQ+ members of the Disney family, as well as the LGBTQ+ community in Florida and across the country."

DeSantis called the company's stated goal as something that "crossed the line."

"This state is governed by the interest of the people of the state of Florida. It is not based on the demands of California corporate executives. They do not run this state. They do not control this state," the governor said, in part.

DeSantis earlier this month said he was "receptive" to changes to Disney's self-governing district for the Walt Disney World property, according to the Orlando Sentinel. In 1967, state lawmakers passed and then-Gov. Claude R. Kirk Jr. signed the Reedy Creek Improvement Act that had been advocated by Disney for building a new theme park.

The district essentially has the same responsibilities as the government, such as land use, essential public services, wastewater control and more, but it's Disney that's able to operate these functions, the Sentinel reports.

Other districts that could be affected include the Bradford County Development Authority, the Sunshine Water Control District in Broward County, the Eastpoint Water and Sewer District in Franklin County and the Hamilton County Development Authority, according to the News Service of Florida.

DeSantis credited House Speaker Chris Sprowls and Senate President Wilton Simpson, both of whom attended the governor's news conference Tuesday, for "stepping up and making sure that we make the sunset or the termination on those special districts happen, which I think is very important."

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