Over the weekend, Variety magazine reported that the Walt Disney Co. would not fight a new bill that strips the company of its special tax district in Orlando, known as the Reedy Creek Improvement District.
The bill, passed on Friday, creates the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District. The district will be managed by a five-member board appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis and confirmed by the state Senate.
The change takes effect July 1, under the bill. The Reedy Creek district had been in place since 1967. It granted Disney enormous power over the 40 square miles of land it owns in Central Florida, including the authority, if the company had the desire, to build a nuclear power plant, airport, and stadium.
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The new district comes out of a spat last year between the Republican governor and Disney, which denounced Florida’s new Parental Rights in Education law. The law prohibits school districts and classroom teachers from implementing lesson plans rooted in gender identity or sexual orientation in grades K-3.
Disney said the law should never have been passed and vowed to get it repealed in the Legislature or overturned in federal court.
DeSantis and GOP lawmakers fired back by repealing the Reedy Creek district last April.
Critics of DeSantis argued that the vote was all gamesmanship and that the Republican governor would cave once Disney flexed its economic and political muscle.
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Yet, in the end, it was Disney that blinked.
“In a statement,” Variety reported, “Disney said it is ‘ready to work within this new framework,’ indicating that it will not try to challenge the law in court.”
In a statement, Jeff Vahle, president of Walt Disney World Resort, said, “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,” he added.
The bill passed last week by 82-31 margin in the House, and by 26-9 in the Senate.
One Democrat, in the House, voted with the GOP to repeal Reedy Creek.
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