January 7

Florida lawmakers to get proposal for state-run board that would oversee Disney World

ORLANDO — Osceola County on Friday posted noticed of its plans to seek legislation that would allow for the dissolution of the self-governing district that oversees Walt Disney World and instead appoint a state-run board to manage the sprawling theme park kingdom.

In a statement posted on the Central Florida county’s website, Osceola County plans to ask the Republican-controlled legislature to make changes to the Reedy Creek Improvement District, what the 55-year-old Disney government is known as.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis Holds News Conference With Florida Surgeon General Dr. Joseph Ladapo MIAMI, FLORIDA – MAY 17: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks during a press conference at the University of Miami Health System Don Soffer Clinical Research Center on May 17, 2022 in Miami, Florida. The governor held the press conference to announce that the state of Florida would be providing $100 million for Florida’s cancer research centers, after he signs the state budget into law. / Getty Images

The current district spans Orange and Osceola counties and has allowed Disney for decades to control the land currently occupied by its gigantic theme park operations.

The intent of the change would be to create a new board to govern the district and its members, according to FOX News, would be appointed by the governor. 

“The corporate kingdom has come to an end,” Taryn Fenske, spokesperson for Gov. Ron DeSantis, told Fox News in a statement posted on its website. “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.”

The current proposal also would require that Reedy Creek’s existing “debts and bond obligations held by the District remain with the District and are not transferred to other governments by retaining the District’s authority related to indebtedness and taxation.”

Disney is one of Florida’s biggest private employers, last year saying it had more than 60,000 workers in the state. 

The creation of the Reedy Creek Improvement District, and the control it gave Disney over 27,000 acres in Florida, was a crucial element in the company’s plans to build near Orlando in the 1960s.  

The legislation is another chapter in the ongoing battle between Burbank, Calif.-based Disney and DeSantis.

The governor last April signed a bill to dissolve the private government Walt Disney World controls on its property in the state, punishing the entertainment giant for opposing a new law that critics labeled “Don’t Say Gay.”

The move has strained the relationships between the state’s Republican-led government and a major political player whose theme parks have transformed Orlando into one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations.

For DeSantis, the attack on Disney is the latest front in a culture war waged over policies involving race, gender and the coronavirus, battles he has harnessed to make himself one of the most popular Republicans in the country and a likely 2024 presidential candidate.

The law eliminated the Reedy Creek Improvement District as well as a handful of other similar districts by June 2023. 

The measure had allowed for the districts to be reestablished, leaving an avenue to renegotiate the future of the deal that allows the company to provide services such as zoning, fire protection, utilities and infrastructure.

But if lawmakers approve the changes sought by Osceola County, the self-governing board would be replaced by a state-run board, giving the sitting governor enormous control over Disney’s operations.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Posted January 7, 2023 by Admin in category "Uncategorized

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