Florida Gov. DeSantis Wins Manoeuvre to Take Over District Around Disney World

Florida Governor, Ron DeSantis.
Florida Governor, Ron DeSantis.

Florida lawmakers voted on 09FEB to give Gov. Ron DeSantis new power over Disney theme parks in the state.

Under the bill, the state would take over the Reedy Creek Improvement District, a government body that currently gives Disney control over the land around its Orlando theme parks. According to CNN, the new bill would rename Reedy Creek the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, and the district’s existing board, made up of individuals with close associations to Disney, would be replaced by a board picked by DeSantis.

The state Senate is expected to vote on the bill on 10FEB. If the measure passes the chamber, it will go to DeSantis for signing.

“There’s a new sheriff in town, and that’s just the way it’s going to be,” DeSantis said at news conference on 08FEB.

The Reedy Creek special district consists of around 25,000 acres containing four theme parks, two water parks, one sports complex, 175 lane miles of roadway, 67 miles of waterway and the cities of Bay Lake and Lake Buena Vista. The arrangement has allowed Disney to grow by using the district’s special borrowing and taxing powers to build infrastructure around the theme parks.

As previously reported by Open Jaw, DeSantis' moves to take over Reedy Creek has been in the works since APR 2022, when the governor first questioned the district's operating status. The feud is part of a clash between DeSantis and Disney over Florida House Bill 1557, named the “Don’t Say Gay” bill by critics. As reported by CNN, DeSantis signed the bill into law over the objections of Disney’s former CEO Bob Chapek. Disney in a statement vowed to help get the law repealed or struck down by the courts.

Amid the spat with DeSantis, Reedy Creek reportedly told its bondholders that the state could not dissolve the district without taking over its debts without violating the 1967 laws that created it.

However, the bill passed 09FEB declares that the changes to Reedy Creek should not affect the district’s existing debt or contracts. It would also keep many of the district’s existing abilities, though it would limit the district’s ability to seize land outside of its existing boundaries that could be used to benefit Disney.

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