DeSantis signs district maps and anti-Disney bill in legislative frenzy
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday signed three landmark bills that are sure to please his GOP base while inviting political opponents to take legal action.
The state Legislature passed bills approving the governor’s plans for post-censal redistricting and stripping the Walt Disney Company of its de facto self-governing status during its special legislative session this week, offering a series of legislative victories to the Republican star widely regarded as one of the main presidential candidates of 2024.
“I’m just not comfortable with this type of agenda getting special treatment in my state,” DeSantis said of Disney’s legal exclusions amid the company’s opposition to the legislation. prohibiting discussion of sex and gender with young schoolchildren, for Deadline. “We have thought of everything. Don’t let anyone tell you that Disney is going to get a tax cut. They’re going to pay more taxes because of it.”
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The first bill dissolves the special status of the Reedy Creek Improvement District. Since 1967, RCID, which is primarily managed by Disney, has retained control of basic governance functions within its borders, such as taxation, zoning, infrastructure, etc. The arrangement is widely believed to have saved Disney significant sums and streamlined its development process for the Walt Disney World Resort. With district dissolution, local taxpayers could be responsible for the $2 billion in debt the company has racked up, says Mary Ellen Klas Miami Herald.
While DeSantis and state Republicans argue they withdrew special status because they “don’t support special privileges in law just because a company is powerful,” many democrats suggested the move was retaliatory against the company for voicing opposition to the Parental Rights in Education Bill, which critics have dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” Bill, although those words do not appear in the legislation.
Disney and Florida Republicans have been embroiled in a bitter public relations battle in recent weeks. The law places restrictions on classroom teaching about gender identity and sexual orientation, but critics like Disney argue it harms gay students. Many state Republicans, including DeSantis, have expressed dismay at Disney’s public condemnations of the law and interference in the state’s political process.
Disney did not respond to a request for comment from Washington Examiner.
The governor also signed a Republican-friendly congressional card on Friday, marking a major political victory for himself as the months-long fight over the state’s congressional allocation moves to the courts. The map is set to face heavy litigation, with a coalition of civil rights groups filing a lawsuit seeking to block the map, which they illegally support gerrymanders and diminish the power of black voters.
But for now, Florida has joined 46 other states in enacting a legally binding congressional map, leaving Missouri, New York and New Hampshire as the only three remaining states without finalized congressional maps. Florida’s map is expected to extend the Republicans’ current 16-11 congressional advantage to 20-8, giving the party 71% of the state’s congressional seats. For comparison, former President Donald Trump won the state with around 51% of the vote in 2020.
Florida had long been mired in a contentious intra-party melee on the map, with DeSantis pressuring the state legislature to more aggressively tilt district lines in favor of the GOP. Ultimately, DeSantis prevailed in the Republican struggle, demonstrating his star power and influence in conservative circles. Last week, Republican leaders in the Legislature effectively gave in to his demands and agreed to pass a map consistent with his wishes.
DeSantis also signed the Stop Woke Act, which bans critical race theory in major institutions such as schools, colleges and businesses. Critical race theory argues that many American institutions are plagued by systemic racism against minorities. The bill, signed as part of the governor’s Friday whirlwind, will take effect July 1 and aims to address the concerns of students and workers who feel uncomfortable with critical lessons in race theory. that were imposed on them.
“We believe in education, not indoctrination,” DeSantis proclaimed at a press conference Friday, per ABC Action News. “We believe that an important element of freedom in the State of Florida is the freedom from being opposed to oppressive ideologies without your consent.”
The bill has drawn opposition from some free speech groups, such as the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. FIRE has always challenged colleges that have targeted conservative students.
“HB7 requires university administrators to dictate to faculty if and how they can discuss issues, like race and gender, that dominate debate on and off campus,” FIRE attorney Adam Steinbaugh said in a statement. statement. “Florida teachers have a constitutional right to speak freely in the classroom and deserve to know they are not alone if they decide to push back against this legislation.”
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The state Legislature had been in special session this week to resolve the redistricting impasse, but DeSantis urged it to consider other issues as well. The session lasted until Friday.