Florida governor Ron DeSantis has made it very clear for a while now that he would like to take away Disney World’s self-governing powers that were once held through the Reedy Creek Improvement District.
This animosity largely stems from Disney’s response to the Don’t Say Gay bill, as DeSantis had called Disney a “woke corporation,” and as a result, Disney stopped its political giving in Florida.
However, lawmakers published a notice on Osceola County’s website which calls for legislation to increase the state’s accountability, transparency, and oversight of the Reedy Creek District, only allowing Disney quasi-government control over the theme parks in Florida.
Taryn Fenske, a spokesperson for Governor DeSantis, said this about the legislation:
“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. Imposing a state-controlled board will also ensure that Orange County cannot use this issue as a pretext to raise taxes on Orange County residents.”
However, this legislation is problematic for other lawmakers, who see a major disruption for Central Florida, as Disney is a huge source of jobs and a driver for the economy in this region.
Some lawmakers had said that DeSantis seems to be “doubling down” on this response and is not willing to compromise.
This notice serves as a first step to start the countdown on moving forward with a bill that would end Disney’s self-governing status in this area, while simultaneously protecting the region’s taxpayers from any of Disney’s debt.
Osceola County spokesperson Mark Pino had said that the notice was posted to State Representative Fred Hawkins’ office as a courtesy, and a bill has not been filed yet in the Legislature.
Reedy Creek is overseen by a Board of Supervisors, with five members on the board. Disney, as the primary landowner, can select who sits on the board. Additionally, this district is comprised of Disney World and surrounding areas. It has the power of a county government entity, and it can levy taxes, issue tax-free bonds, oversee the use of land and environmental protections, as well as provide necessary public services, such as fire department and police.
According to Orlando Sentinel, here is more about what is listed in the notice:
The notice mentions removing and revising the district’s powers; increasing state oversight, accountability, and transparency; revising the selection process, membership qualifications, and compensation for the governing body; ensuring debts and bond obligations held by the district remain with the district and are not transferred to other governments; revising the district’s regulatory framework and structure; and instituting reporting requirements, including a review of the district’s remaining powers.
In 2022, the Florida Legislature had voted to dissolve Reedy Creek starting June 1, 2023, but had previously left the reconfiguration of this district open. At the time, DeSantis had wanted state appointees on this board while making sure that Disney would keep paying the taxes that would be required to maintain the Parks and Resorts.
However, Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings took the opposite approach of DeSantis, calling Disney an “outstanding community partner” who keeps investing in Orange County. On Friday, he also dispelled some rumors about Orange County using this event to raise taxes on residents, calling it “baseless.” Florida lawmakers will start their regular season in March, and we will continue to keep you updated on any progress.
What do you think of this ongoing battle over the Reedy Creek District?