Skip to content

Latest Stories

Top Stories

Disney World will no longer be a ‘special district.’ What does that mean?

Disney World will no longer be a ‘special district.’ What does that mean?

The Florida Legislature is back in session to finalize a congressional redistricting plan. But Gov. Ron DeSantis authorized lawmakers to also consider a bill revoking Disney World’s status as a “special district” operating outside of municipal jurisdictions, and they quickly passed it Thursday.

This unusual – but not unique – quirk of state and local government largely goes unnoticed in Florida and beyond, so most people have never even heard of it. But this week it has been dominating headlines, so we wanted to take a closer look.

Since 1967, Disney World has acted as a self-governing entity, exempt from some regulations and running its own municipal programs. Officially, the zone is known as the Reedy Creek Improvement District, and through it Disney World levies its own taxes, runs its own emergency response units and controls construction permits and planning.

For 55 years, legislators have allowed this arrangement to continue, easily approving renewals on a regular basis. And it is one of nearly 2,000 such zones in Florida. But after the private company came out against a new state law regulating discussion of sex and gender in schools (known as the “Don’t Say Gay Bill”), Republicans have changed their tune.

Sign up for The Fulcrum newsletter

"What I would say as a matter of first principle is I don’t support special privileges in law just because a company is powerful and they’ve been able to wield a lot of power," DeSantis said last month.

In a clear signal that he is targeting Disney, DeSantis on Tuesday called for an end to special districts established prior to 1968, affecting just a handful of Florida’s special districts. (DeSantis made the announcement about his directive to lawmakers during a press conference held in The Villages – a heavily Republican community that is itself a special district established in 1922.)

The massive complex – approximately 40 square miles – straddles Osceola and Orange counties. If the special district is indeed dissolved, those counties and two very small towns would become responsible for municipal services. According to the Miami Herald, Reedy Creek has an annual budget of $355 million and nearly $1 billion in debt.

Residents would most likely see an increase in their taxes to cover the added government responsibility, University of Central Florida professor James Clark told The New York Times.

Florida isn’t the only state with special districts. In fact, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, every state has at least one.

In 2017, the Census Bureau catalogued every special district in every state. At the time, Florida had fewer than 1,200 – not even cracking the top 10.

Between 2012 and 2017, approximately 1,500 special districts were created and about 1,250 were dissolved, according to the agency.

“In some cases, states create them to provide services to newly-developed geographic areas,” the Census Bureau explained. “In other cases, the special purpose activity or services already exist, but residents expect a higher level of quality.”

While many only exist for a short period of time to accomplish specific goals, Disney World’s has been in operation for more than a century. The state Senate approved DeSantis’ bill Wednesday and the House did the same Thursday, sending it to DeSantis for his signature. Reedy Creek will continue to operate until the summer of 2023, allowing time for negotiations on a new agreement.

Read More

Wegovy box
Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images

How Congress can quickly make Ozempic, Wegovy affordable

Pearl, the author of “ChatGPT, MD,” teaches at both the Stanford University School of Medicine and the Stanford Graduate School of Business. He is a former CEO of The Permanente Medical Group.

A whopping one in eight U.S. adults have taken GLP-1 drugs like Wegovy and Ozempic for weight loss and related conditions. Their popularity and efficacy have sparked a prescription-writing frenzy in recent years, leaving both medications on the Food and Drug Administration's drug shortage list since May 2023.

Keep ReadingShow less
Man climbing a set of exterior steps

The author, Miliyon Ethiopis, following a court’s decision to grant his asylum request on June 18.

U.S. immigration court ruling on statelessness could have wide impact

Ethiopis is a co-founder of United Stateless, a national organization led by stateless people.

I feel like I have been born again, after a U.S. immigration court made a remarkable ruling in my “statelessness” case in June. I hope that my case will have significant, broader implications for other stateless people in America.

Being stateless means no country will claim you as a citizen. We don't belong anywhere. Stateless people are military veterans. We are Harvard graduates. We are Holocaust survivors. There are millions of stateless people around the world, and 200,000 such people in the United States.

Keep ReadingShow less
Bar graph of shopping carts
Andriy Onufriyenko/Getty Images

Have prices increased 40 percent to 50 percent since Trump left office?

This fact brief was originally published by Wisconsin Watch. Read the original here. Fact briefs are published by newsrooms in the Gigafact network, and republished by The Fulcrum. Visit Gigafact to learn more.

Have prices increased 40 percent to 50 percent since Trump left office?


Cumulative inflation since former President Donald Trump left office in January 2021 through May 2024 was 20.1 percent according to data from the Federal Reserve’s Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers, or CPI-U.

Trump told a crowd on June 18 in Racine, Wis., that "real inflation" is more than twice that.

Keep ReadingShow less
White House

Whoever occupies the Whtie House next year will have the opportunity to make the federal workforce more efficient.

DEA/M. BORCHI/Getty Images

Project 2025: Managing the bureaucracy

Breslin is the Joseph C. Palamountain Jr. Chair of Political Science at Skidmore College and author of “A Constitution for the Living: Imagining How Five Generations of Americans Would Rewrite the Nation’s Fundamental Law.”

This is part of a series offering a nonpartisan counter to Project 2025, a conservative guideline to reforming government and policymaking during the first 180 days of a second Trump administration. The Fulcrum's "Cross-Partisan Project 2025" relies on unbiased critical thinking, reexamines outdated assumptions, and uses reason, scientific evidence, and data in analyzing and critiquing Project 2025

Efficiency is not a word that often comes to mind when contemplating the federal bureaucracy. At almost 3 million workers strong, and representing an eye-popping 2 percent of the entire American labor force, the federal bureaucracy is a behemoth. Add to that eight times as many federal contractors and no one — not Democrats and not Republicans — can claim the bureaucratic sector is streamlined.

Donald Devine, Dennis Dean Kirk and Paul Dans, the authors of chapter 3 of the Heritage Foundation’s “Mandate for Leadership: The Conservative Promise” (aka Project 2025), understand the numbers. And the problem. Or at least I thought they did.

Keep ReadingShow less
Protestors call for health care beneifts

People demonstrate in support of health care in 2017 in Montana, which expanded Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

William Campbell-Corbis via Getty Images

Has Medicaid expansion in states improved health outcomes?

This fact brief was originally published by EconoFact. Read the original here. Fact briefs are published by newsrooms in the Gigafact network, and republished by The Fulcrum. Visit Gigafact to learn more.

Has Medicaid expansion in states improved health outcomes?


Studies have shown that Medicaid expansion in states does lead to improved health outcomes.

Keep ReadingShow less