Florida lawmakers meet next week on Disney, immigration

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) – Florida lawmakers will meet next week to complete the state’s takeover of the autonomous district of Walt Disney World and discuss proposals on immigration and election crimes, as Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis continues to exploit national political cracks ahead of an expected race for the White House.

Republican leaders in the Legislature, coordinating with DeSantis, on Friday directed lawmakers to convene a special session next week to deal with the Reedy Creek Improvement District, as the Disney government is known.

In addition, the Statehouse will also consider legislation creating a migrant relocation program and clarify that the state attorney has the authority to prosecute election crimes in federal and state races.

The agenda marks DeSantis’ continued focus on issues such as immigration, voter fraud, gender and sexuality, with the ascendant Republican eager to lean into political divisions as he positions for a 2024 presidential race and it further brandishes its reputation as a conservative firebrand.

The meeting will mark the latest development in a high-profile feud between DeSantis and Disney over the company’s criticism of a law critics dubbed “Don’t Say Gay,” which bans education about sexual orientation and identity. of gender in kindergarten up to the third grade and lessons deemed not appropriate for the age.

The governor, in pushing lawmakers to strip the corporation of its self-governing status, has shown a willingness to go after one of the state’s largest employers and political donors, reinforcing the combative leadership style that propelled him to national political stardom.

The special session was rumored to focus on Disney, but Friday’s announcement detailing the additional topics also ensures a strong focus on the governor’s approach to voter fraud and immigration, key issues of Republican primary voters conservatives.

The memo released on Friday doesn’t offer many details on the proposals, and the bills have not yet been tabled.

The election crimes prosecution comes after some charges related to the governor’s new election police unit were dropped over jurisdiction issues. The memo qualifies the measure as a clarification of state law.

Lawmakers will also create a program to illegally transport immigrants into the country to another state if they have already been processed by the federal government and voluntary migrants. DeSantis has already used part of a $12 million taxpayer-paid fund to transport about 50 South American migrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, in protest of federal immigration policy.

The spat between DeSantis and Disney began last year when the entertainment giant publicly opposed the education legislation and said it would suspend political donations in the state and support organizations working to oppose the law. .

DeSantis moved quickly to criticize the company, calling it a purveyor of woke ideologies inappropriate for children, and gave lawmakers a chance to purge the Disney government as the legislature was meeting for a special session on redistricting.

The GOP-controlled Statehouse in April approved legislation to dissolve Reedy Creek by June 2023, launching a closely monitored process that would determine the government structure that controls the company’s vast ownership.

The memo doesn’t offer many details about the district’s future, only that the bill “will overhaul the governance and powers of the Reedy Creek Improvement District while protecting local taxpayers from the district’s debts.”

The creation of the Reedy Creek district was instrumental in Disney’s decision to build near Orlando in the 1960s. Having a separate government allows the company to provide zoning, fire protection, utilities and infrastructure services on its territory.

The special session will also adjust the language in current laws addressing sponsorship deals for college athletes.

Florida was one of the first states to pass a law that allows college athletes to profit from their name, image or likeness, but does not allow individuals affiliated with universities to help secure endorsement deals. The proposal would eliminate that provision to make Florida more competitive with other states that don’t have the restriction.

Lawmakers will also consider a bill to provide more relief funds for Hurricane Ian and Nicole recovery efforts, according to the memo. ___

AP writer Brendan Farrington contributed to this report.

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