New reports show that a bill proposing to dissolve Walt Disney World’s current Reedy Creek Improvement District in favor of allowing Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to assume control has passed 26-9.
The special tax district act, first introduced by Walt Disney himself, allows the Walt Disney World Resort to operate on land situated between Orange County and Osceola County, whose potentially conflicting local ordinances could have hindered the construction of Magic Kingdom Park and EPCOT back when it was still intended to be a functional city. Even after plans for the community fell through and Disney announced a second theme park instead, the Reedy Creek Improvement District allowed Disney Parks to retain significant control over the area, even instituting its own Fire Department for the Disney Park property and to serve Guests in a more timely manner during an emergency.
Initially, the Improvement District came under fire from Governor DeSantis after the Walt Disney Company voiced its eventual support for its LGBTQ+ Cast Members, animators, and other employees in the wake of DeSantis’ proposed Florida Parental Rights in Education Act (House Bill 1557). More commonly known as the “Don’t Say Gay Bill,” the act limits the visibility of minority identities within classroom curriculum, among other things, with many LGBTQ+ activists fearing it would compromise their equal rights within the state of Florida.
In retaliation, DeSantis, who said a Southern California-based company should not involve itself in Florida legislature, despite the longstanding working relationship the state and Walt Disney World have held due to the rising tourism boom brought about by the Disney Parks, began to target Reedy Creek. Although the governor’s reasoning for the dissolution of the Improvement District is to impart more regulation upon the once free-standing Company, removing Reedy Creek could also force Florida taxpayers to assume Disney debt for its Park operating and construction costs.
Even so, when Senator Travis Hutson brought the bill before the Florida legislature, it gained overwhelming approval, thus granting Governor DeSantis the right to remove the current Reedy Creek and appoint all five members of its new regulatory board. Of course, the bill will go to the governor for final approval, while the triumphant Senator Hutson ironically takes his own family on a Walt Disney World Vacation.
As reported by theme park journalist Scott Gustin in a video shared to his Twitter account breaking the news, we see the Senator tell the room, “Yes, Madame President, and in about fifteen minutes, my wife is taking my kids out of school.” Furthermore, Hutson explains they’ve had this trip planned for months prior to the special session hearing, even acknowledging the irony of the situation by voicing his hope that Disney will still allow him inside the Parks.
The aside receives a smattering of applause as the Senator laughs with the President, who tells him that Disney’s facial recognition technology may actually prevent his trip. Watch the full video below:
— Scott Gustin (@ScottGustin) February 10, 2023
Disney has yet to comment on the state’s decision, though some predict it may bring the case before the United States Supreme Court for a reevaluation in a bid to save the Reedy Creek Improvement District as we know it.