MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Friday signed four bills between Leon and Miami-Dade counties, including the approval of a congressional redistricting map designed by his office, a law banning critical race theory in schools and workplaces and a law that will dissolve six special districts throughout the state, the Reedy Creek Improvement District among them.
Though three bills could be seen on a table at a Hialeah Gardens news conference that afternoon in Mater Academy Charter Middle/High School, the stage was themed for the signing of the Stop Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees Act — the Stop W.O.K.E. Act — which DeSantis said pitted education against indoctrination by putting the state Board of Education’s ban of critical race theory into state statute.
“The bill that we’ll be signing here today provides substantive protections for both students and parents to ensure that the education they’re receiving in Florida is consistent with the standards of the state of Florida, and those standards do not allow pernicious ideologies like critical race theory to be taught in our K-12 schools,” DeSantis said.
The law, HB 7, also impacts workplaces, as the governor claimed critical race theory was being used in workforce training.
“(The) Walt Disney Corporation claimed that America was founded on quote ‘Systemic racism’ and encouraged employees to complete a quote ‘White privilege checklist.’ Under this law, that is a violation of your civil rights,” DeSantis said.
DeSantis said he signed the congressional redistricting map in Tallahassee ahead of the news conference, away from cameras.
“We also did sign the congressional reapportionment in Tallahassee earlier today,” DeSantis said. “So that’s going to be transmitted, but these are the bills — the Stop W.O.K.E., which passed during the regular session, and then the theme park carve out from our big tech bill and the special districts bill — we’re going to put our John Hancocks on all of those right now.”
For the “big tech bill,” the governor referred to SB 6C, what he described as a revised version of SB 7072, which was signed in May 2021 to allow Floridians to sue social media companies on grounds of censorship.
The governor claimed at a March news conference that an “11th hour” change to the text of SB 7072 served to protect theme parks from that same legal recourse, something that SB 6C “rectified,” he said Friday.
“I was in a situation as governor, ‘Do I veto the whole bill over that and get nothing or do I sign it in spite of that?’ So I thought (it) was better to sign it in spite of that, knowing it was going to be litigated, and (knowing) we could tweak it later,” DeSantis said. “The legislature has rectified that mistake and they have repealed the Disney exemption to our big tech bill.”
With Disney now the topic of conversation, DeSantis had his segue.
“The other bill will be dealing with a handful of what are called these special districts that were done prior to the ratification of our Constitution in 1968, and one of those districts is unlike anything else that we know in the state of Florida that was called Reedy Creek Improvement District,” DeSantis said.
SB 4C, sent to DeSantis after approval in the Florida House on Thursday, will dissolve six special districts by 2023 that were formed before 1968, when the current state constitution was put in place.
Filed in the House by State Rep. Randy Fine, R-Brevard County, after he claimed Disney “chose to kick the hornet’s nest” in criticizing the governor’s parental rights in education law, critics warn the law could cause Disney’s nearly $1 billion bond debt among other costs to be thrust upon Orange and Osceola county taxpayers.
“That would be catastrophic for our budget here within Orange County,” Mayor Jerry Demings said ahead of the signing event. “It would put an undue burden on the rest of the taxpayers in Orange County to fill that gap.”
At the news conference Friday, DeSantis said not to worry about that part.
“Now, people will say they do have services, utilities- we’re going to take care of all that. Don’t worry, this is all- we have everything thought out. Don’t let anyone tell you that somehow Disney is going to get a tax cut out of this. They’re going to pay more taxes as a result of that,” DeSantis said.