Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is moving forward with plans to put Disney’s special governing district under the control of the state in an attempt to end the long-standing arrangement between Disney and Florida.
In a significant development, Governor DeSantis made steps to replace the current board that controls Reedy Creek, the self-governing area run by Disney, with a new board appointed by the state of Florida. The district, established in 1967, grants Disney the power to maintain its own infrastructure and public services and the authority to levy taxes and issue bonds to finance the expenses associated with running services for the Walt Disney World resort.
Governor Desantis’s communications director, Taryne Fenske, released the following statement regarding the news: “The corporate kingdom has come to an end. Under the proposed legislation, Disney will no longer control its own government, will live under the same laws as everyone else, will be responsible for their outstanding debts, and will pay their fair share of taxes.”
According to sources speaking to local news outlets, the proposed legislation would also require Disney to pay the approximately $700 million in unsecured debt accumulated by Disney’s special jurisdiction, the Reedy Creek Improvement District, rather than placing the burden on Orange County taxpayers. Fenske noted that the proposed legislation would “ensure that Orange County cannot use this issue as a pretext to raise taxes on Orange County residents.”
This comes as relations between Disney and the Governor of Florida have been turbulent due to political differences stemming from new state laws pushed by Governor Desantis. One in particular, House Bill 1557, the Parental Rights in Education bill,” which some have dubbed the “Don’t say Gay Bill,” was intended to limit the discussion of sexual orientation and gender in classrooms for students in third grade or below. Disney’s former CEO, Bob Chapek, came out over the bill after criticism for not releasing a statement and said Disney would reassess their “approach to advocacy — including political giving in Florida and beyond.” Chapek also expressed his “disappointment and concern,” arguing that the law would “unfairly target gay, lesbian, non-binary, and transgender kids and families.”
Following the statements from Disney, Governor Desantis called the company “woke” and supported a series of legislation that targeted Disney’s self-governing permissions in the state. In a special redistricting session that had major implications for Disney, the Governor said, “Disney is a guest in the state of Florida, and today we remind them of that.”