Florida Legislature Prepares to End Disney’s Self Governing Status
The Walt Disney Company’s forays into progressive activism and K-3 sex education advocacy will come at a steep cost. New legislation introduced by Florida Republicans on Monday is set to end the company’s self-governing status and strip it of its special privileges. The bill also imposes a state-controlled oversight board on Disney and its property, with members hand-picked by the governor.
The special district, known as the Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID), was created by the Florida legislature in 1967 to incentivize the development of Disney’s theme park. The act bestowed the Disney Company with “extraordinary” special privileges and autonomy.
“Until Governor DeSantis acted, the Walt Disney Company maintained sole control over the District,” the governor’s office told Florida Jolt. “This power amounted to an unaccountable Corporate Kingdom.”
Some of the powers set to be revoked by the bill include:
• Full self-governing status with a Disney-selected board.
• The ability to build airports and nuclear facilities.
• Acquisition of property beyond the District’s territory by condemnation and eminent domain.
• Unilateral boundary changes.
• No-bid procurements of construction contracts.
• Operating standards that varied from Florida Statute.
• Exemptions from regulatory reviews and approvals that other companies must navigate.
While critics of the legislation say it oversteps the state’s authority, Disney’s combined corporate and public level is unlike any other corporation in America. The RCID effectively functions as a 40 square mile city-state, one that Rollins professor Richard Foglesong describes as a “Vatican with mouse ears.”
Speaking on the bill, the governor’s office said that
“Florida is dissolving the Corporate Kingdom and beginning a new era of accountability and transparency.”
DeSantis’ office also said that the legislation:
• Allows the state to impose taxes on Disney for possible road projects outside of the District’s boundaries.
• Provides no control of the district to the leftist local government in Orange County, which threatened to leverage the situation to raise local taxes.
• Imposes Florida law so that Disney is no longer given preferential treatment.
• Prevents Disney from gaining more land by eminent domain.
• Creates an avenue to compel Disney to contribute to local infrastructure.
The legislation also holds Disney responsible for paying off its $700 million outstanding debt and ensures that costs do not fall on Florida taxpayers.
The decision to revoke Disney’s self-governing status is the culmination of a year-long battle that began with the company’s opposition to the Parental Rights in Education bill. The bill prohibited instruction on sex and gender in K-3 classrooms. While discussing plans to end the RCID in April 2022, Governor DeSantis said in an interview with Tucker Carlson Tonight, “This company had a deal, unlike any company or individual in all of the state of Florida, probably anywhere in the United States.”
“We are monitoring the progression of the draft legislation,” Walt Disney World president Jeff Vahle said in a statement. “We remain committed to providing the highest quality experience for the millions of guests who visit each year.”
The RCID will be renamed the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District under the new plan.
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