The fight between Disney and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis continues to bring drama and frustration. Now, the concern for many revolves around their First Amendment rights and whether they will be silenced moving forward.
The Fight With DeSantis Begins
The conflict between Disney and DeSantis began back in 2022 when Disney spoke out against the controversial Parental Rights in Education law that many critics call “Don’t Say Gay”. The bill restricts classroom instruction on gender identity and sexual orientation.
Shortly after Disney spoke out, DeSantis began his campaign to replace and take over Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID) with his leadership board. Reedy Creek Improvement District was established in 1967 by the Florida State Legislature. The goal of RCID was to create and manage municipal services.
It is through RCID that public services such as fire protection, emergency medical services, water production treatment, and environmental protections are provided.
On February 27, 2023, Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID) was transitioned to the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District (CFTOD). This change happened following the passing of House Bill 9B by the Florida Legislature. As part of the transition, a whole new board of supervisors was appointed by Gov Ron DeSantis.
CFTOD and the new board have seen a massive exit from leadership. As this week started, reports indicated more than 30 employees have quit. Employees who have quit state that inept, dishonest, and toxic leadership is the reason for their departure.
This includes the majority of the senior leadership time that served RCID. Key positions such as the District Administrator and Fire Department Chief are just a few examples of the leadership positions that now have significant shoes to fill.
As the fight between Florida Gov Ron DeSantis and Disney continues, we see more concerns being raised by Disney before the trial.
First Amendment Concerns
Disney is warning others ahead of the trial that if DeSantis wins in the courtroom, it will give DeSantis and other Republicans the ability to suppress speech moving forward. “If the line is not drawn here, there is no line at all,” Disney explained recently regarding the case.
Disney states that it is up to Disney and other leaders to step up and fight back when big corporations make mistakes. If DeSantis can win, there could be considerable implications for corporate speech and government response. Disney claims that the First Amendment protected their comments regarding the initial bill and that the state’s actions since then have been unconstitutional.
DeSantis and others state that Disney’s claim that their First Amendment rights were harmed is directly related to their dislike of the new governing by CFTOD. The state explains that taking over the district was due to fairness, not retaliation due to Disney’s previous comments.
As Disney looks to prevent DeSantis and others from taking “retaliatory actions,” DeSantis and his team focus on fairness. Until the trial, we will continue to monitor the situation and how it could impact Walt Disney World and the Disney Company overall.