Gov. DeSantis Doubles-Down on Dissolution of Disney’s Special Status in Florida – A State Board Will Manage the District

Toby Hazlewood

The DeSantis feud with Disney continues

On January 12, Florida's Republican Governor Ron DeSantis announced initiatives to tackle the rising cost of prescription drugs. During the Q&A at the announcement, the governor discussed a number of other topics, amongst them his ongoing feud with the Disney Corporation which began last year, and which prompted DeSantis to commence proceedings to revoke Disney's self-managing status in Florida - a privilege it has enjoyed for many decades.

Governor DeSantis was clear in his most recent thoughts shared on the topic, that the special deal that's long been enjoyed by Disney is running on borrowed-time. What's more, is that DeSantis is now clear that the district will be put under management by the State Government if he has his way.

The news of the governor's intentions will come as a relief to many residents of nearby districts who had previously feared that the extra costs of managing the Reedy Creek district might be passed onto them by increased local taxes.

The "Don't Say Gay" disagreement

Disney's self-governing status in Florida came under threat from the state's legislature in 2022, as a result of responses from Disney leaders to so-called "Don't Say Gay" legislation that took effect in the state.

In response to the apparent corporate rebellion by Disney, Governor DeSantis and state legislators began moves to revoke the special status and effectively dissolve the Reedy Creek district that had been established for Disney. The compact gave the corporation the chance to self-manage, but it was also apparent that resulting debts owed as a result of this action would be passed on to Florida taxpayers.

Estimates put the amount outstanding from Disney to be as much as $1 billion. At the time that these rumors emerged, Governor DeSantis was quick to respond, countering that "Disney will pay its debts".

Now, it would seem that the corporation is back in the governor's sights and he's now certain that the management of the district will be undertaken centrally, not deferred to local politicians.

DeSantis' ongoing issues with Disney

There has been little from DeSantis in recent months regarding Disney, but with the midterm elections now behind him, it seems that the Florida Republican is keen to pick up where he left off. Disney remains a clear target for his 'anti-woke' agenda, both for its response to 'Don't say gay' legislation, but also the fact that they remain clearly focused on woke political matters.

In December it emerged that the corporation was closing its Splash Mountain ride at both resorts to make its branding more inclusive. References to 'The Song of the South' with its characters Br'er Rabbit and Br'er Bear are being replaced with designs aligned to the animated film 'The Princess and The Frog'. According to Disney:

"The new concept is inclusive – one that all of our guests can connect with and be inspired by, and it speaks to the diversity of the millions of people who visit our parks each year."

This alone isn't enough to have caught Governor DeSantis' attention (one would hope) but it illustrates that the ethos of Disney may no longer be as closely aligned to that currently favored by DeSantis and his Republican leadership team.

Whether the dissolution of Reedy Creek happens this year or not, remains to be seen.

Do you think that Governor DeSantis is right to push for the dissolution of the Disney's special status in Florida? Do you think that his fixation on 'woke' politics is helpful or productive? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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