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DeSantis moves to bring Disney's special Florida district under direct state control

“The corporate kingdom has come to an end," a spokesperson for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said.
Visitors walk along in The Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World
Visitors walk in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. in 2022.Bryan R. Smith / AFP via Getty Images file

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis will seek to bring Disney's special governing district under direct state control in a bid to end the entertainment giant's multi-decade arrangement with the Sunshine State.

DeSantis is expected to appoint a new board to control Reedy Creek, the self-governing area that is currently de facto run by The Walt Disney Company, and allows it to maintain its own infrastructure and public services. Created in 1967, the district also allows Disney to raise taxes and issue bonds to finance the expenses required to run services for Walt Disney World resort.

“The corporate kingdom has come to an end," said DeSantis's communications director, Taryn Fenske, in a statement. "Under the proposed legislation, Disney will no longer control its own government, will live under the same laws as everyone else, will be responsible for their outstanding debts, and will pay their fair share of taxes."

Fenske added that a state-controlled board would also ensure that neighboring Orange County cannot use Reedy Creek-related issues "as a pretext to raise taxes on Orange County residents.” 

Fox News first reported the Friday development, citing sources in DeSantis' office. In a document posted to the website of Osceola County, which also borders Orange County and Reedy Creek, notice was given that the proposed legislation would leave no current aspect of Reedy Creek untouched.

Florida legislators already voted in a special session last year to dissolve all special districts like Reedy Creek in Florida by June 2023. It was not immediately clear how that earlier vote would impact the new proposal.

Florida's next legislative session will start in March.

DeSantis's dispute with Disney stems from the company's decision last year to weigh in on the governor's proposal to ban discussion of gender and sexual orientation in schools for kindergarten through third grade. In response, DeSantis and his allies in the Florida legislature announced they would seek to end the privileges Disney had enjoyed through the special district.

The perception that Disney had stepped into a political battle is said to have played a role in the ouster of former CEO Bob Chapek and the return of former longtime CEO Bob Iger. In a town hall meeting with Disney employees soon after returning to the helm, Iger said he did not like to see Disney embroiled in controversy.

“The state of Florida has been very important to us for a long time, and we have been very important to the state of Florida,” Iger said last month.

A Disney representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment.