Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis will seek to bring Disney’s special management district under direct state control in an effort to end the entertainment giant’s decades-long deal with the Sunshine State.
DeSantis is expected to appoint a new board to control Reedy Creek, the self-governing area currently de facto operated by The Walt Disney Company, allowing it to maintain its own infrastructure and public services. Created in 1967, the district also allows Disney to raise taxes and issue bonds to finance the expenses required to operate services for the Walt Disney World resort.
“The corporate empire has come to an end,” DeSantis’ director of communications, Taryn Fenske, said in a statement. “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.”
Fenske added that a state-controlled board would also ensure that neighboring Orange County cannot use Reedy Creek-related issues “as a pretext to raise taxes on Orange County residents.”
Fox News first reported the development Friday, citing sources in DeSantis’ office. In a document posted on the website of Osceola County, which also borders Orange County and Reedy Creek, it was advised that the proposed legislation would leave no current aspects of Reedy Creek untouched.
Florida lawmakers already voted in a special session last year to dissolve all special districts like Reedy Creek in Florida by June 2023. It was not immediately clear how the earlier vote would affect the new proposal.
Florida’s next legislative session begins in March.
DeSanti’s dispute with Disney stems from the company’s decision last year to weigh in on the governor’s proposal to ban discussion of gender and sexual orientation in kindergarten through third grade. In response, DeSantis and his allies in the Florida legislature announced they would seek to end the privileges Disney had enjoyed through the special district.
The perception that Disney had entered a political battle is said to have played a role in the ousting of former CEO Bob Chapek and the return of former longtime CEO Bob Iger. In a town hall meeting with Disney employees soon after returning to the helm, Iger said he did not like to see Disney embroiled in controversy.
“The state of Florida has been very important to us for a long time, and we’ve been very important to the state of Florida,” Iger said last month.
A Disney representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment.