First Read

Florida Senate strikes back against Disney

The move came hours after the entertainment giant filed a federal lawsuit against the state.

Image by Gary Ullah from Pixabay

The Florida Senate Wednesday night voted 27-13 to approve a proposal intended to nullify development agreements involving the Walt Disney Co., hours after the entertainment giant filed a federal lawsuit against the state. The bill (SB 1604), which will go to the House, would in part override agreements that Disney reached with outgoing board members of the former Reedy Creek Improvement District. 

Bill sponsor Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill, declined to directly address some parts of the bill because of the newly filed lawsuit. Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, joined Democrats in opposing the bill. Democrats argued the bill should be “paused” until the lawsuit is settled. “We keep passing laws, even though we're in the middle of lawsuits, on top of lawsuit on top of lawsuit,” said Sen. Tina Polsky, D-Boca Raton.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in Tallahassee federal court, alleges DeSantis and other officials improperly retaliated against Disney because of the company’s opposition to a controversial 2022 law that restricts instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity in schools. The lawsuit said the retaliation threatens the company’s “business operations, jeopardizes its economic future in the region and violates its constitutional rights.”

Under Ingoglia’s bill, special districts would be prohibited from complying with development agreements executed three months or less before new laws take effect that change how district board members are selected. It also would give new boards four months to review any development agreements and decide if they should be re-adopted. 

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