House supports nullifying contract with Disney’s old governing board
Image via AP.

Walt Disney World
Republicans argue Disney didn't follow the law as they push a bill to void Disney's contracts with its old governing board.

House lawmakers have approved a bill that seeks to nullify Disney’s contracts with its outgoing governing board before the state took it over.

SB 1604, which included an amendment targeting Disney, passed 75-34 despite Democrats warning it sets a dangerous precedent that the state could get involved in canceling a business contract. The bill will next go back to the Senate for final approval.

“When are we going to stop playing whack-a-mouse because our Governor is big mad that he got outsmarted by Disney?” said Rep. Anna Eskamani, arguing the proposed legislation was intended to punish Disney. “Beyond the Disney drama, let’s just talk about the notion of canceling a contract that you don’t like. … This is a moment where we just got to call it out for what it is.”

But Rep. Toby Overdorf argued the state wasn’t outsmarted by Disney.

“You know what? They did not follow the law,” Overdorf said. “So what do we have to do? We have to now make sure that we have guardrails so that the laws are followed.”

Under an amendment to SB 1604, an independent special district is prohibited from following any development agreements within three months of a law shaking up how those board members were selected. The amendment also calls for a special district’s newly appointed board to review any development agreements and other agreements within four months of taking office.

Sen. Blaise Ingoglia filed the amendment after the Gov. Ron DeSantis-appointed members on the Disney World governing board said they had lost much of their power because Disney made long-term development and restrictive covenants with the outgoing Disney-picked board.

As the state-run board was voting last week to nullify Disney’s agreements, Disney filed a federal lawsuit against the board members and DeSantis. The board countersued Disney Monday in Orange Circuit Court.

Also moving through the Legislature is a bill that opens up Disney World monorails to state inspectors for the first time. Democrats argued against the bill, saying millions of people rode the monorail in the past 10 years without any problems and that the only purpose of the bill is more retaliation against Disney.

Disney currently inspects the monorails. Republicans said the bill provides important state oversight that’s been missing and pointed to a 2009 death of a Disney employee killed during a monorail accident.

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 .

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