Today, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’ legislation to strip Disney of its special self-governance powers passed in the Florida House.
- If DeSantis’ new legislation passes in the Senate, the Reedy Creek Improvement District, where Disney World is located, will be turned into the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District.
- DeSantis promised to revoke Disney’s special status last year after a public political scuffle with Disney executives over Florida’s Parental Rights in Education Act.
- “Florida is dissolving the Corporate Kingdom and beginning a new era of accountability and transparency,” DeSantis’ office says. “These actions ensure a state-controlled district accountable to the people instead of a corporate-controlled kingdom.”
- DeSantis’ proposed legislation will revoke Disney’s self-governing status, impose governor-appointed term-limited board members, give the state more power to tax Disney projects, stop Disney land acquisitions through eminent domain, and force Disney to improve local infrastructure.
Why it’s news
Since 1967, Disney has been set aside as an independent special district that gives the corporation power similar to that of a municipal government. These privileges allowed the company to maintain its roads, sewers, and other public infrastructure. Disney also has its own fire and police departments.
If DeSantis’ new bill passes, Disney will continue to operate similarly, but the board governing Disney will answer to the Florida governor. Board appointees will be selected by the Florida governor as well.
Walt Disney World Resort President Jeff Vahle responded to the news by saying, “We are monitoring the progression of the draft legislation, which is complex given the long history of the Reedy Creek Improvement District. Disney works under a number of different models and jurisdictions around the world, and regardless of the outcome, we remain committed to providing the highest quality experience for the millions of guests who visit each year.”
Backing up a bit
DeSantis promised to strip Disney of its special status after a public altercation with Disney executives over the Florida Parental Rights in Education Act. The bill limits the discussion of sexual orientation in lower grade levels of elementary schools.
Disney came out against the bill publicly after Disney employees shared their disappointment that the company was not taking a side in the debate.
Then CEO Bob Chapek explained Disney’s silence was because “we chose not to take a public position on it because we thought we could be more effective working behind-the-scenes, engaging directly with lawmakers—on both sides of the aisle.”
Disney’s comments opposing the bill won some employees back, but others felt it was too late. Additionally, the company was met with criticism from customers—though it had some supporters, too.
DeSantis responded to Disney by vowing to revoke the company’s special status. Not long after, the Disney board of directors removed CEO Bob Chapek and replaced him with returning CEO Robert Iger.