Governor Ron DeSantis Responds To Disney’s Reedy Creek Maneuver
Welcome back to As The Disney World Turns, where the now very public battle between The State of Florida and the Walt Disney Company has taken another turn.
For those who need a brief recap of the saga, here is what happened.
How It Started
The fight began in 2022, when Florida passed the Parental Rights in Education Law, which stated that public school teachers could not discuss sexual orientation or gender through the third grade.
After initially remaining silent, Disney eventually released a public statement condemning the bill, stating that it would cease political donations in the state.
In retaliation, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis vowed to abolish the Reedy Creek Improvement District, a local municipality that essentially allowed Disney free reign when it came to building, regulations, and taxation for the land they own in and around Walt Disney World.
Reedy Creek had originally been established when Disney came to Central Florida as a way to entice the company to build.
While many DeSantis critics claimed he would never be able to dissolve the district, as its outstanding debt would be dumped on local taxpayers, the State of Florida chose a different method.
The Central Florida Tourism Oversight District
Last February, the state passed a law that created the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District. That entity was designed to assume the role and function (including the debt) of the Reedy Creek Improvement District.
The big difference between the two districts revolved around who appointed the district board of supervisors.
Under Reedy Creek, the board was made up of those who lived within the district, a group of people who were exclusively under the control of Disney.
In order to strip the mouse house of its power, DeSantis, and Florida Legislator, wrote that that the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District’s board would be appointed by the governor and approved by the State Senate.
Following the passage of the new legislation, Disney seemed to accept their new arrangement with Florida. The company released a statement saying,
“For more than 50 years, the Reedy Creek Improvement District has operated at the highest standards, and we appreciate all that the District has done to help our destination grow and become one of the largest economic contributors and employers in the state. We are focused on the future and are ready to work within this new framework, and we will continue to innovate, inspire and bring joy to the millions of guests who come to Florida to visit Walt Disney World each year.”
At this point, it seemed that Disney and Florida had reached a détente.
Things flared back up this week however when the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District board learned that just nineteen days before the Florida bill eliminating Reedy Creek was signed into law, that entity’s board passed a Declaration of Restrictive Covenants, essentially giving Disney full autonomy over the future use of their land.
These binding agreements not only pertain to the current Central Florida Tourism Oversight District but will continue “until twenty-one (21) years after the death of the last survivor of King Charles III.”
If you are wondering why Disney chose this language, there is a legal term known as the “Rule Against Perpetuities.” Since legal documents cannot make declarations that last “in perpetuity,” lawyers will set the policy to continue until after a certain person dies.
By passing this covenant prior to Reedy Creek’s dissolution, Disney essentially stripped all power from the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District.
Now, the ball is back in DeSantis’ court. Upon learning of the agreement, current board members vowed to overturn it.
“We’re going to have to deal with it and correct it,” Central Florida Tourism Oversight District Board of Supervisors member Brian Aungst Jr. said this week, “It’s a subversion of the will of the voters and the Legislature and the governor. It completely circumvents the authority of this board to govern.”
At a speech in Smyrna, Georgia, Ron DeSantis publicly commented on the latest twist for the first time.
“There’s a lot of little back-and-forths going on now with the state taking control, but rest assured, you know, you ain’t seen nothing yet. There’s more to come in that regard.”
While the governor did not explain what his next steps would be, it doesn’t sound like this issue will be going away soon.
“They basically got everything they wanted for the many decades they’ve been operating in Florida – until now, because now there’s a new sheriff in town,” he said.
Disney Releases Statement
For their part, Walt Disney World released a statement saying that everything they had done was legal and above water.
“All agreements signed between Disney and the District were appropriate, and were discussed and approved in open, noticed public forums in compliance with Florida’s Government in the Sunshine law.”
The next scene in this ongoing feud will likely take place in court. What happens next, is anybody’s guess.
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