The Wall Street Journal details an interesting wrinkle in the Florida legislature’s effort to end Disney’s special tax district:
Ending the district could be a complicated process, and is likely to provoke a legal battle that could prolong the public dispute between Disney and Mr. DeSantis. According to a bill analysis by legislative committee staff, dissolving the district could require approval by a majority of the resident electors or landowners of the district.
Reedy Creek’s two residential communities, Bay Lake and Lake Buena Vista, have about 50 permanent residents in total, most of them Disney employees. As primary landowner in the district, Disney controls most of the votes to elect Reedy Creek’s board of supervisors, giving the company strong influence over any vote within the community.
The bill analysis points out that existing Florida law requires, “In order for the Legislature to dissolve an active independent special district created and operating pursuant to a special act, the special act dissolving the active independent special district must be approved by a majority of the resident electors of the district or, for districts in which a majority of governing body members are elected by landowners, a majority of the landowners voting in the same manner by which the independent special district’s governing body is elected.”
These special purpose districts allow for an exception to “one person, one vote,” sometimes known as “one acre, one vote,” approved by the Supreme Court in cases like Salyer Land Co. v. Tulare Lake Basin Water Storage Dist. (1973). You can check out the Reedy Creek charter, which provides, “At all elections of supervisors, each landowner shall be entitled to one (1) vote in person or by written proxy for every acre of land and for every major fraction of an acre owned by him in the District.”
The bill’s text, however, opens with the proviso, “Notwithstanding” existing Florida law, any independent special districts created before 1968 and not subsequently reestablished are dissolved as of June 1, 2023. (Five other special districts would also be dissolved.)
I don’t know how the legal debate on this topic will play out, except to note that it’s one component of the future skirmish, highlighted by this exchange reported in the Tampa Bay Times:
Sen. Linda Stewart, D-Orlando, expressed doubt about the legality of the proposal, arguing state law only allows special districts to be dissolved with the consent of the government of the district.
Republicans have said that argument holds little water.
“The bill creates new law,” said Rep. Randy Fine, R-Palm Bay, the House bill sponsor. “If you don’t understand that every bill we pass changes existing statute, I’d be looking for a refund on my law degree.”