On Monday, Disney World’s President responded to a bill introduced by Florida’s legislature that, if passed, will bring about big changes to Disney’s special tax district.
The Disney-DeSantis debacle has been going strong for almost a year now. It began with Disney’s public stance against Florida’s HB 1557, the Parental Rights in Education bill, which was drafted to prohibit classroom instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity in K-3 classrooms, and to require such conversations after third grade to be age-appropriate. After Governor Ron DeSantis signed the bill into law in late March 2022, Disney immediately fired back with a statement condemning the passing of the bill and vowing to stand with those who endeavored to see the law repealed.
In April 2022, Florida lawmakers passed a law that would dissolve special tax districts in the Sunshine State that were incepted before 1968, including the Reedy Creek Improvement District, Disney’s special tax district that effectively grants Disney the privilege of a self-governing status. The dissolution was set to be effective in summer 2023.
But on Monday, the Florida legislature called a special session to discuss the state’s takeover of the Reedy Creek District. What resulted was a new bill, HB 9B, which saves Reedy Creek from dissolution–but calls for several significant changes, including empowering Governor DeSantis to hand-pick board members for Reedy Creek and officially changing the name of the district to the “Central Florida Tourism Oversight District.”
Shortly after news of the new bill was announced, Disney World President Jeff Vahle issued a statement in response to the proposed legislation.
“We are monitoring the progression of the draft legislation, which is complex given the long history of the Reedy Creek Improvement District,” Vahle said. “Disney works under a number of different models and jurisdictions around the world, and regardless of the outcome, we remain committed to providing the highest quality experience for the millions of Guests who visit each year.”
The 189-page bill not only takes away landowners’ abilities to pick their own board members; it also places restrictions on who can serve on the board for the district. Anyone with work experience with a theme park or entertainment complex in the previous three years would be ineligible to serve.
The bill will be discussed during the State Affairs Committee meeting, which will begin at 9:00 a.m. Eastern on Wednesday in Tallahassee.