Federal judge dismisses lawsuit over bill to dissolve Disney’s Reedy Creek

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The George W. Bus appointee called it speculative that surrounding local governments would take on Reedy Creek's debt.

A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit from Central Florida residents over Gov. Ron DeSantis and Republican lawmakers’ decision to dissolve Disney World’s Reedy Creek Improvement District.

The lawsuit, filed earlier this month, asserted legislation to dissolve the district (SB 4C) is unconstitutional and will significantly “injure” nearby taxpayers, who may inherit upwards of $1 billion in debt. It also alleges the repeal is punitive and aims to punish Disney’s opposition to the Parental Rights in Education bill (HB 1557).

In an email, DeSantis press secretary Christina Pushaw called the judge’s decision not at all surprising, saying Orange and Osceola counties won’t have to bear the burden of Disney’s debt.

“There is no scenario where the state would inherit Disney’s debt — this is misinformation,” she said.

U.S. District Court Judge Cecilia Altonaga, appointed by former President George W. Bush, wrote Tuesday that a federal court can’t intervene over a speculative injury.

“Perhaps this will put to rest the speculation from those who are hoping — with no basis in reality — that this will end in some sort of taxpayer or state burden that partisan critics can use against the Governor,” Pushaw said. “In reality, this opportunity can, and should, be utilized to generate more taxes from Disney, as the Governor has said.”

The parental rights bill — signed in March — bans instruction on “sexual orientation or gender identity” from kindergarten through third grade and limits that instruction in later grades. The plaintiffs include Orange County resident Vivian Gorsky and Edward and Michael Foronda of Orange County. Miami lawyer and U.S. Senate candidate William Sanchez is representing the trio, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

Critics, including Disney, referred to the legislation as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill — a term supporters of the law decry as inaccurate.

“It is without question that defendant Gov. DeSantis intended to punish Disney for a First Amendment-protected ground of free speech,” the lawsuit says. “Defendant’s violation of Disney’s First Amendment rights, directly resulted in a violation of plaintiffs’ 14th Amendment rights to due process of law.”

Reedy Creek — Disney’s self-governing body — provides utilities and public services across more than 25,000 acres of Orange and Osceola counties. If dissolved, local governments would absorb Reedy Creek’s assets, debts and responsibilities, such as emergency medical service.

“Stripping Disney of this special district designation will move these major regulatory burdens unto the county, thereby increasing the Plaintiff’s taxes, and will cause significant injury to plaintiffs,” the complaint states.

Reedy Creek will dissolve in June 2023 unless lawmakers revisit the issue. Five other special districts, all of which were created by lawmakers prior to 1968, will also be nixed.

___

Jason Delgado contributed to this report.

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.


5 comments

  • Missed the Bus

    May 11, 2022 at 1:06 pm

    “The George W. Bus appointee called it speculative that surrounding local governments would take on Reedy Creek’s debt.”

    Reply

    • A bird in the han is worth two. . .

      May 11, 2022 at 1:35 pm

      It’s curious–actually it isn’t, we all understand why they do it–that when left-leaning journalists disagree with a judge’s decision, they make sure to identify which Republican president appointed that judge. And when they agree with the decision, they usually leave that reference out. A small thing, but disinformation is made up of both one or two big things and a myriad of small ones.

      Reply

      • TJC

        May 11, 2022 at 2:00 pm

        You just wish that were true. In fact, FP journalists are very consistent in reporting which president appointed any judge mentioned in an article where that judge has rendered a decision. Your right-leaning memory is faulty.

        Reply

  • R

    May 12, 2022 at 6:48 am

    At what point is the taxation within a county, thay is within a state, the business of the federal government? In today’s climate, it is nice to see a black robes not partake in judicial activism or legislating from the bench.

    Reply

  • Scott C

    May 14, 2022 at 7:10 pm

    I find it extremely hard to take ANYthing these left wing liberal children who call themselves “journalists” seriously, and even more so when they can’t even correctly spell the name of a recent former president. “George W. Bus”?? (I must have missed that election…..)

    Reply

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