Legislature OK’s bill overhauling Disney World’s government

The bill takes the control away from Disney and allows DeSantis to pick the board members with Senate confirmation.

The Legislature approved a bill that allows Gov. Ron DeSantis to appoint Disney World government’s board members.

The Senate voted 26-9 Friday on the bill after the House approved it earlier with a vote of 82-31 Thursday.

The bill also renames Reedy Creek Improvement District to the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District.

Since 1967, the board that acts like a municipal government on the 25,000 acres of Disney-owned land in Central Florida. Up until now, the company picked the members to serve on the governing board, essentially giving Disney control over its roads, zoning and other issues and allowing Reedy Creek to take out tax-free bonds to pay for those major infrastructure projects.

The bill takes the control away from Disney and allows DeSantis to pick the board members with Senate confirmation. Republicans argued the bill takes away the unfair advantage Disney had over SeaWorld and Universal.

“They’re not in charge of themselves anymore,” House Speaker Paul Renner said of Disney during a Friday press conference before the vote. “As the Governor said, ‘There’s a new sheriff in town.’ The people’s elected representative, the Governor, is making those appointments, so they’ll be governed in a way that levels the playing field with other entities.”

The bill comes after DeSantis feuded with Disney following the company speaking out against the “Parent Rights in Education” law last year.

Democrats, the minority in the Legislature, voiced concerns the state’s takeover of Reedy Creek was retribution for Disney taking a stand on a political issue.

Some Central Florida lawmakers also said they were bothered Reedy Creek moves from a Disney-controlled board to one in state control with local elected leaders getting no say in the matter. Pushes to name the mayors of Orlando, Kissimmee, Orange County and a representative from the Osceola County Board of Commissioners on Disney World’s government board failed this week.

Sen. Victor Torres pointed to the long history of Reedy Creek which the Legislature created in 1967 as an incentive for the Walt Disney Company to build its Magic Kingdom in Orlando. He acknowledged Reedy Creek wasn’t perfect but there was no reason to overhaul the institution.

“When you look at how far they have gotten and you see the amount of tourism that has been generated by those theme parks … just because of Disney, you begin to wonder, what do you need to change?” the Democrat from Orlando said Friday morning during a committee hearing.

“There is no need for change. … This is a power grab by the Governor. This bill is just meant to show other private companies, if you say something wrong that I don’t like, I’m going to go after you. I’m a no on this bill.”

Gabrielle Russon

Gabrielle Russon is an award-winning journalist based in Orlando. She covered the business of theme parks for the Orlando Sentinel. Her previous newspaper stops include the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Toledo Blade, Kalamazoo Gazette and Elkhart Truth as well as an internship covering the nation’s capital for the Chicago Tribune. For fun, she runs marathons. She gets her training from chasing a toddler around. Contact her at [email protected] or on Twitter @GabrielleRusson .


  • Mac Wiseman

    February 10, 2023 at 4:28 pm

    Say your prayers woke @55 varments the people of the Great State of Florida are coming after you through the awsome power and glory of our duly elected officials. Keep verbally and visually assulting our childern through your woke movies, streeming, ect….and we shall unleash the hounds on Disney.

    • Charles

      February 14, 2023 at 12:06 pm

      Maybe you should learn to spell.

  • Tallahassee Insider

    February 10, 2023 at 4:44 pm

    This is clearly illegal and will be challenged by Disney until DeSantis goes away.

  • nail

    February 11, 2023 at 7:41 am

    Disney move out of this hell hole. DeSantis thinks he is god. Everyone is turning on him.
    Hopefully the old magats will die very quickly and all who voted for this Ass will suffer more than anyone else.

  • Tom

    February 11, 2023 at 7:55 am

    I must say that I’ve never seen a Governor or State Government that is so deathly afraid of words, or words on a piece of paper. I wish they paid that much attention to maybe fixing the insurance system, or housing affordability but nah, let’s pick fights with things that nobody cares about. I wonder how all this will play nationally if he decides to run for President.

  • TLH Outsider

    February 11, 2023 at 2:11 pm

    Previously, the board of the district was elected by property owners within the district–1 vote per 1 acre owned–so Disney effectively ran the board and, thus, the district, which, like a local government, provides public services and infrastructure for the 25,000-acre district (essentially, Disney). The district has done so for over 50 years, as far as I know, without serious problems.

    This bill removes Disney’s right to select the board and assigns this right to the governor. The clearest appointment criterion is vindictive:
    the appointee may not have been affiliated with Disney for the past 3 years. The bill raises serious questions of whether these gubernatorial appointees will be fit to discharge their responsibilities and, more ominously, whether, even if competent, the governor’s political appointees will subordinate their district duties to their political loyalty to the governor who appointed them.

    I don’t think this bill changes FS 190.046(5), which authorizes either municipality within the jurisdiction of the district to transfer “a specific community development service” from the district to the local government. There are only 2 such local governments to which this provision pertains: the cities of Bay Lake and Lake Buena Vista, which, together, account for about 50 residents, none of whom, I think, owns any significant acreage, if any, but I’m sure that they are all, or nearly all, Disney loyalists. FS 190.046(7) clarifies any possible ambiguity in (5) as to “a specific . . . service” by providing for the termination of the district upon the transfer of all of its services to one or more local governments.

    I don’t know if Disney will challenge the bill, cause one or both municipalities to accept a transfer of all district services, or both. But two things are likely. There will be plenty of litigation, except in the unlikely event that the churlish governor backs down. And if the governor’s takeover of the district proceeds, it will only be a matter of time before district operations unravel.

    Leadership? Hardly. I’d call it a big mess of a vindictive governor’s creation. If it unravels in time, the failed district may end the governor’s political career, but, whenever it fails, the impacts will be felt far beyond Disney and central FL

Comments are closed.


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