Disney has a strategy to avoid incurring any new costs as the company navigates its continuing battle with the State of Florida–and it involves the Florida governor’s bid for the 2024 Presidential race.
The long-standing discord between The Walt Disney Company and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis had its beginnings in early 2022, as Florida approached a vote in the legislature that would determine the fate of House Bill 1557, the Parental Rights in Education Act. Disney issued a public statement, taking aim at the bill and at Florida’s lawmakers. When the bill passed in March, Disney issued another statement, denouncing the new law and vowing to stand with those who sought to see it repealed.
In late April 2022, in what some called a retaliatory move, Florida passed a different piece of legislation that called for the dissolution–effective June 1, 2023–of special tax districts incepted in the Sunshine State before 1968–including Disney World’s Reedy Creek Improvement District, first created in 1967 by Walt Disney and his brother Roy, with the blessing of then-Florida governor Haydon Burns.
Since that time, tensions have run high between DeSantis and Disney, one of the state’s biggest employers. As with most things, the ultimate debate between the two titans comes down to the almighty dollar: who should take on Disney World’s “considerable” debt?
Over the next two weeks, lawmakers in the Sunshine State will be in Tallahassee for a special session. One of the things on the docket during the session was the fate of Disney’s Reedy Creek. On Monday, the legislature filed House Bill 9B. Rather than dissolving Reedy Creek, the bill aims to rename the district, as well as to grant exclusive power to Governor Ron DeSantis to appoint people to serve on the board for the district.
But Democrat State Senator Jason Pizzo first predicted that Disney would challenge the law in court and then resolve the issue after DeSantis steps away from his gubernatorial role, presumably to blaze the 2024 Presidential campaign trail.
“I think Disney anticipates having to litigate on this issue, to sue, hope to get a stay from the court to keep things status quo, and then basically just drag it out until DeSantis is gone and people need, or don’t care about, Disney,” Pizzo said.
But if DeSantis opts not to pursue a Presidential run, he will remain in his role as Florida’s governor for an additional four years.
“We are all hoping the governor makes a decision real soon about what he wants to do with his future, so he can leave the business of legislating in Florida to Floridians,” Pizzo said.
Disney World’s president, Jeff Vahle, issued a statement regarding the most recently proposed Reedy Creek legislation, saying that the company was “monitoring the progression of the draft legislation,” given that the situation is “complex” because of Reedy Creek’s long history.