Three Republican lawmakers walked out of an Orange County legislative delegation meeting on Wednesday, while others didn’t attend at all. The meeting introduced State Senator Linda Stewart’s bill to restore the old Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID) Board, reversing Governor DeSantis’ takeover of what is now called the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District (CFTOD).
Multiple Republican Lawmakers Walk Out of Meeting Regarding Reedy Creek Restoration Bill
The Wednesday meeting was a yearly opportunity for citizens to address elected representatives, but half of the 14 delegates did not attend the full session. Three Republicans and one Democrat did not show up, while three other Republicans walked out before the lunch break.
The walk-outs were Senators Jason Brodeur and Dennis Baxley, and Representative Doug Bankson. They left just before a vote on Senator Stewart’s bill, although they claimed it was not why they left. They were instead upset about the rule that requires the delegation’s leadership to have at least 50 percent of their district in Orange County.
“I don’t want to participate in a kangaroo court for whom the outcomes are already pre-determined,” Brodeur said at the meeting. “This is silly. […] It absolutely discriminates and limits minority access to leadership roles.” He added, “Anybody who needs to contact me knows how to find me.”
Orlando Sentinel reached Senator Baxley by phone, who said that the Reedy Creek bill had nothing to do with his decision to leave.
“This whole idea that some people are not to be included is disturbing when you are duly elected,” he said. “We are equal, but some are more equal than others. I don’t like that.”
The Democrats who remained voted 7-0 to advance the bill, but discovered that with so many members missing, they didn’t have a quorum and the vote was invalid.
Democratic Representative Anna Eskamani chairs the delegation. She said of the lawmakers walking out, “It’s disrespectful to the staff who spent hours preparing for this meeting and to the more than 100 members of the public who signed up to speak. I can only assume this was less about delegation rules and more about Republican lawmakers not wanting to take a vote on restoring Reedy Creek.”
Senator Stewart said the walkout won’t stop her from introducing her bill. “They haven’t discouraged me or derailed me yet,” she said. “They can’t stop me.”
The delegation plans to consider the bill again and elect new officers next week.
Stewart told WESH 2, on the RCID and CFTOD situation, “I’m very fired up because I’m sick of it.”
“There’s no transparency,” she said about the new CFTOD Board of Supervisors, only one of whom lives in the Orlando area. “They don’t live here.”
“The employees, the morale of the employees, they just love what’s going on — they do not!” she continued. “The fact that they can just do anything they want to do and be supported by the governor is wrong.”
Regarding her bill, which was revealed this week, Stewart said, “You can’t stand up and complain all the time and not do anything.”
When asked how confident she was that the bill would get passed, on a scale of one to 10, she said five. “I’m in the middle.” She hopes introducing the bill will get people talking and thinking.
The three Republican lawmakers who did not attend Wednesday’s meeting were Representatives Carolina Amesty, Susan Plasencia, and Paula Stark. Eskamani said Amesty had a family emergency, Stark was sick, and Plasencia did not give a reason. Democratic Representative Bruce Antone missed the meeting because he was at a conference.
The 60-day legislative session will begin on January 9, 2024.