Governor Ron DeSantis promised more to come on the state’s increasingly convoluted fight with Disney to wrest back the company’s control of a swath of central Florida that is home to Walt Disney World.
“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,” the Republican governor told a crowd in Smyrna, Georgia, according to CNN. “There’s more to come in that regard.”
For decades, Disney had power to build, tax and develop the area known as the Reedy Creek Improvement District under a longstanding state statute. Last year, the state legislature passed and DeSantis approved a change revoking Disney’s authority. That came after former CEO Bob Chapek tangled with the governor over a law dubbed “Don’t Say Gay.” In a surprising twist, however, it emerged early this week that Disney may have outmaneuvered the state for control of these 27,000 acres around Orlando.
Little-Noticed February Vote By Walt Disney World's Reedy Creek Board "Completely Circumvents" Authority Of New DeSantis-Chosen Overseers
DeSantis appointed new members to the Reedy Creek board in a law signed Feb. 27. But, it seems, not before the previous board voted control to Disney in ways that may be complicated to overturn. The new board discovered the agreements, which were apparently public, and complained.
“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, referring to the vote taken by the then Disney-controlled Reedy Creek Improvement District. “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.”
The cause of the Disney/DeSantis rupture, the Parental Rights In Education law, says public school teachers cannot instruct on or discuss sexual orientation or gender through the third grade. Pressured by Disney employees, Chapek protested with DeSantis.
“I don’t know that it’s the appropriate use of shareholder resources to be shilling for gender ideology in kindergarten, but nevertheless, that’s what they decided to do,” DeSantis sniped Thursday, according to CNN.
The governor didn’t elaborate on just how he’d address Reedy Creek, but talked tough. “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.
DeSantis spokeswoman Taryn Fenske, in statement shared with the Orlando Sentinel earlier this week, called the vote one of Disney’s “last-ditch efforts” to transfer “rights and authorities” to itself. “An initial review suggests these agreements may have significant legal infirmities that would render the contracts void as a matter of law.”
However, The Walt Disney World resort maintained in a statement to Deadline that “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.”
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