At a Friday morning meeting, Orange County, Florida lawmakers advanced Senator Linda Stewart’s bill that hopes to restore the Reedy Creek Improvement District.
Stewart’s bill was first revealed in November. The delegation had a meeting later that month but could not meet a quorum to advance the bill because four lawmakers were not in attendance and three Republicans walked out.
Stewart, an Orlando Democrat, said of Governor Ron DeSantis’ Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Board that replaced Reedy Creek, “It’s not working. And we have had 10 months.” (via Florida Politics)
The new version of the District was established by DeSantis as retaliation against Disney when the company denounced the state’s Parental Rights in Education bill, a.k.a. the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. Stewart says the legislation to establish the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District was rushed (it happened in less than a year). Outside of several back-and-forth lawsuits with Disney, the District has run into several problems, including dozens of employees quitting amid reports of a “toxic” workplace.
“You never rush legislation because this is what you run into,” Stewart said. “We need to go back to square one and see what we can do.”
Windermere Republican Representative Carolina Amesty accused Stewart’s bill of being the rushed one. She criticized the fact that the bill doesn’t have a House sponsor and hasn’t gone through bill drafting.
Representative Anna Eskamani, an Orlando Democrat and chair of the delegation, acknowledged there were irregularities with Stewart’s bill but said it did not violate the delegation’s or Legislature’s rules.
Amesty was also offended Stewart didn’t reach out to her about the bill because much of the District and Disney are in her own House District 45.
“Disney is very important to our district,” Amesty said. “If there is any policy to do with the district, I’d like to be contacted beforehand.”
Amesty said the bill was only presented to her at Friday’s meeting although it was first presented at the November meeting, which she did not attend.
Amesty also took issue with the fact that the Osceola County Legislative Delegation, which she also serves on, has not yet heard the bill. Senator Vic Torres, an Orlando Democrat and chair of the Osceola County Legislative Delegation, countered that he attempted to call a meeting but Republicans declined to attend, preventing a quorum again.
Apopka Republican Representative Doug Bankson said he considers the bill a step backward and that he would be open to lawmakers discussing improvements to the District rather than handing control back to Disney.
Stewart says she would be happy with changes to the District, particularly the Board appointees, which she takes issue with because most of them are not local.
According to Stewart, now that the bill has been advanced by the delegation, it can now go through drafting and be considered by the Florida House as a local bill. However, it still needs a House sponsor and Stewart hasn’t spoken with any committee chairs about getting the legislation on an agenda.
Stewart has said before that she’s not confident the bill will pass the Florida Legislature, but reiterated at this meeting that she hopes “it starts the conversation.”