TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida lawmakers said a plan for Disney's special district is likely coming soon.
The entertainment company will lose its privileges through the Reedy Creek Improvement District next year. Since 1967, RCID has allowed Disney World in central Florida to operate the district like a county government.
In April, the governor signed a bill to dissolve Reedy Creek and several districts like it. Republicans pushed through the idea during a special session, believing the company had too much autonomy.
The legislation came after Disney condemned the approval of HB 1557, the Parental Rights in Education bill — what critics call the "Don't Say Gay" bill. Now law, the policy restricts instruction of gender identity and sexual orientation in kindergarten through third-grade classrooms, or "in a manner, not age appropriate."
State Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Beach, carried the special districts bill in the House. He said that at the time, "when you kick the hornet's nest, you never know what's going to come up."
"I think that Disney has forgotten that they are a guest in our state," Fine said in April. "A California company needs to respect Florida values if they want to do business there."
Many since expected Disney would hammer out a new agreement with the state before Reedy Creek's expiration on June 1 of next year. Critics note time is of the essence as the district's roughly $1 billion in bond debt could be transferred to central Florida taxpayers without reconstitution.
"The one thing that I can tell the audience is that the conversations of Reedy Creek have always been there, and they're still continuing today," state Rep. Daniel Perez, R-Miami, told us during a recent interview.
Perez is expected to become House Speaker in 2024. During an interview last week, the high-ranking Republican said he expected the public would find out what's next for Disney and its district shortly.
"We'll try to put a bow to that conversation in the near future," he said. "As for the timetable on that, it's still uncertain. But the conversations have continued. There is some progress to be made, but we will definitely, I think, we'll reach a solution sometime soon."
Disney hasn't yet commented on the situation or shared details of what a reworked special district might look like. The governor's office has also stayed quiet.
"We don't have an announcement to make at the moment but stay tuned," governor press secretary Bryan Griffin said.
Democrats, meanwhile, continue to condemn Republicans for taking action in the first place. With a deal nearing, state Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, was hopeful Disney would remain firm on its opposition to HB 1557.
"I know that Disney, as a corporation, is going to pursue whatever avenue will benefit their bottom line," Eskamani said. "But, I hope they continue to hold a line on their values of being an inclusive and welcoming company that has, not only LGBTQ+ cast members and employees but also customers."
Any new deal will still need the Legislature's approval and the governor’s signature to become law. The regular 60-day lawmaking session begins in March and runs until May.