For more than a year, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has been at odds with the Walt Disney Company. For years, the two sides had a relatively amicable relationship, as they both benefitted from the other. Walt Disney World Resort brings tens of millions of tourists into the state each year. It also pays millions in taxes and is one of the state’s largest private employers. Add to that, because of the Reedy Creek Improvement Act of 1967, Disney was able to act as its own government. The state saved millions as it didn’t have to pay for a lot of things, like road repairs and firefighters.
However, that mutually beneficial relationship took a nosedive last year when ex-Disney CEO Bob Chapek spoke out against Florida’s controversial Parental Rights in Education bill. The bill was also called the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. DeSantis was a big supporter of the bill and didn’t appreciate what Chapek said. DeSantis signed the bill into law as Chapek vowed that Disney would fight against it. From there, things only got worse. Within weeks of the beginning of their fight, DeSantis and the Florida Legislature dissolved the Reedy Creek Improvement District.
As part of the dissolution of Reedy Creek, the Florida governor announced that a new board — called the Central Tourism Oversight Committee — would oversee the district. That board was hand-picked and appointed by Governor DeSantis. All seemed to be going well for the Governor, who touted that he brought down one of the largest companies in the United States.
Then, things took a turn no one saw coming.
Last week, it was revealed that, while Disney may have been playing the quiet game, it was doing anything but capitulating to the Governor. While the Disney-appointed board still retained power, they made a land deal with Disney. In that deal, Disney would have the final say over the area until 21 years after the death of the youngest current descendant of King Charles III. Yes, the Reedy Creek board invoked the royal family in one of the most creative ways imaginable. All so they could hold onto Walt’s land.
Disney and DeSantis fans weren’t the only people who were shocked by the discovery, so was the new board. Board members and Governor DeSantis all vowed to look into every legal avenue possible in order to get the land agreement tossed. However, according to multiple reports, Disney followed the letter of the law in passing the bill. On February 6, the bill to change the district was publicly posted. Two days later, the bill was discussed during a committee meeting. Then, on February 9, the King Charles Clause was added. The bill was then approved the next day BY THE FLORIDA LEGISLATURE.
Governor DeSantis has said that the fight against Disney is just beginning. But it may be in his best interest to just take the loss and move on. Disney’s lawyers don’t run one of the world’s most successful companies because they are fools. They would want to make sure that every agreement entered into was followed by the letter of the law.
The biggest issue DeSantis will most likely face is that the bill was signed into law by the Republican-controlled state legislature. Disney followed the rules, and it looks like the people who voted it into law did so because they didn’t bother to actually read it. This debacle will be a lesson to all politicians — make sure you read a bill before you vote on it.
On April 3, Governor DeSantis announced that he had ordered the Chief Inspector General to investigate any “ethical or legal” violations committed by the former Reedy Creek board. Investigations cost money, and who will foot the bill for this investigation? Florida taxpayers. Who will continue to pay if DeSantis continues this fight? Florida taxpayers.
The taxpayers may not appreciate it if they have to pay for a fight that was a loss from the start.
**The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s and may not reflect the sentiments of Disney Fanatic as a whole.