Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at the Republican Jewish Coalition Annual Leadership Meeting in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Nov. 19, 2022. (Wade Vandervort/AFP via Getty Images)
A central Florida county on Friday issued a notice of its plans to seek legislation that would allow for dissolving Walt Disney World’s self-governing area to appoint a state-run board to manage the district while a spokesperson for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said Friday that “Disney will no longer control its own government” under the proposal.
“Notice is hereby given of intent to seek legislation before the Florida Legislature, during a regular, extended, or special session, of an act relating to the Reedy Creek Improvement District,” said a notice from Osceola County on Friday. Reedy Creek, established in the 1960s, is the name for Disney’s self-governing district and is located in Osceola and Orange counties and allowed Disney to control the land currently occupied by its massive theme park.
Friday’s notice also stated that Florida lawmakers will take up legislation “increasing state oversight, accountability, and transparency” of Reedy Creek district. Republicans currently hold supermajorities in both chambers of the Florida legislature, although a bill hasn’t been filed in the Legislature as of Friday.
The move to dissolve Reedy Creek is backed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has been a frequent critic of Disney’s jumping into the political arena to back leftist causes. Disney is one of the largest employers in the state and Walt Disney World is one of the world’s most popular theme park attractions.
“The corporate kingdom has come to an end,” Taryn Fenske, a spokesperson for DeSantis, told Fox News in a statement on Friday. “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.”
The decision to impose “a state-controlled board will also ensure that Orange County cannot use this issue as a pretext to raise taxes on Orange County residents,” she added. That statement was also postedby a Twitter account associated with DeSantis.
Last April, DeSantis signed a bill to dissolve Reedy Creek’s special tax status in the state, weeks after the company’s CEO criticized a recent Florida law that barred teachers from encouraging classroom discussions about sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through grade 3, or in a manner that is not age-appropriate. It’s not immediately clear how the bill would impact the latest proposal.
The Florida Legislature voted last year to abolish Reedy Creek on June 1, 2023, but they said there could be a possibility the district is reconfigured. DeSantis said he wanted to have the state control the board and pay taxes needed to maintain its properties and theme park.
There were reports last month that Florida lawmakers were working to reverse the decision that would revoke Disney World’s special status within the state, but a DeSantis spokesperson refuted the claims.
Tourists walk through Disney Springs at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla., on March 22, 2022. (Octavio Jones/Getty Images)
“Governor DeSantis does not make ‘U-turns,’” a spokesperson for the governor told news outlets last month. “The governor was right to champion removing the extraordinary benefit given to one company through the Reedy Creek Improvement District.”
The spokesperson said that “we will have an even playing field for businesses in Florida, and the state certainly owes no special favors to one company,” adding that “Disney’s debts will not fall on the taxpayers of Florida. A plan is in the works and will be released soon.”
Florida lawmakers will start their regular session in March. Disney could not be immediately reached for comment.
The Reedy Creek Improvement Act was signed by Gov. Claude Kirk in 1967 after Disney proposed building a development on 25,000 acres of property in Florida’s Orange and Osceola counties comprising mainly of pasture and swamps.
The creation of the district was a crucial element in the company’s plans to build near Orlando in the 1960s. Company officials said they needed autonomy to plan a futuristic city along with the theme park. The city never materialized, however; instead, it morphed into the EPCOT theme park.
Last year, Democrats criticized the governor’s move as retribution for the company’s stance on the education bill. Some pointed out that Disney has been a major economic driver in the state.
“What world are we living in right now?” asked Democratic Sen. Audrey Gibson. “It’s the freedom state of Florida. If they disagree with the governor, he brings out the Gatling gun.” Source