Florida Decides to Let DeSantis Control Disney Special Operating District Leadership
Florida lawmakers have approved a bill that makes changes to Disney’s Reedy Creek special governing district, including replacing its board of supervisors and giving it a new name.
The law is slated to be signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
The district’s essential operational procedures will remain in place as a result of the new legislation, which supersedes a previous proposal to completely abolish the district. One of those processes relates to the district’s capacity to levy taxes and issue bonds in order to construct and maintain the infrastructure necessary to serve the Walt Disney World Resort.
“In terms of the day-to-day operation of the district, it doesn’t look like much is going to change,” said Aubrey Jewett, associate professor and assistant school director at the University of Central Florida.
The most significant change is that, subject to state Senate approval, DeSantis would be able to nominate the district’s five board members. Disney previously held de facto dominance of the board as the largest landowner in the region.
After his disagreement with Disney, DeSantis has pushed for more control over the district. The media and entertainment juggernaut’s opposition to DeSantis’ proposal to limit instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity to students in the state from kindergarten through third grade was a contributing factor in the governor’s decisions.
Additionally, the district’s name will change from Reedy Creek Special Improvement District to Central Florida Tourism Oversight District.
DeSantis’ administration said the new legislation was needed, mentioning in a statement that the district had historically “gifted extraordinary special privileges to a single corporation.”
“Until Governor DeSantis acted, the Walt Disney Company maintained sole control over the District,” a spokesman for the governor said in a statement. “This power amounted to an unaccountable Corporate Kingdom. Florida is dissolving the Corporate Kingdom and beginning a new era of accountability and transparency.”
Disney is monitoring the legislation, Jeff Vahle, president of Walt Disney World Resort, said in a statement.
“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,” Vahle said.
As part of a major restructure, Disney recently announced the layoffs of 7,000 employees. But a Disney office campus at Lake Nona, about 20 miles east of Disney World, still seems to be under construction. According to the Orlando Business Journal, Disney recently filed a zoning application for a master plan for the campus, which is slated to house 2,000 jobs.