The first lawsuit has been filed challenging Florida’s law which would eliminate Disney World’s governmental district — and it’s not from Disney.
Three Florida residents are the plaintiffs in the suit: Michael and Edward Foronda of Kissimmee and Vivian Gorsky of Orange County. According to the Orlando Sentinel, they are being represented by Miami attorney and Democratic U.S. Senate candidate William Sanchez.
The suit argues that Florida and Gov. Ron DeSantis violated the state’s own Taxpayer Bill of Rights law, existing contracts with the Reedy Creek Improvement District’s bondholders, as well as Disney’s First Amendment rights. DeSantis made it clear in public statements that he and Republican legislators sought to eliminate the district after Disney called for the repeal of another law, dubbed by its critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” law.
“The stated and undisputed reason behind the bill is to punish Disney World and subsequently Florida taxpayers,” the suit says.
As outlined in the suit, if Reedy Creek were eliminated in June 2023, its $1 billion of debt and other obligations, and the cost of providing services to the district, would fall on Orange and Osceola counties and its taxpayers. That would require significant hikes in property taxes, according to Orange County tax collector Scott Randolph.
Potential tax increases is one reason why the residents claim they have standing to sue the state. “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 lawsuit states.
DeSantis spokesperson Christina Pushaw reiterated to the Sentinel that the governor’s stance that such financial burdens would not be passed onto the state — but also didn’t explain how. DeSantis has only promised “additional legislative action” without offering specifics.
In contrast to its public statements on the “Don’t Say Gay” law, Disney has been largely silent on the law targeting Reedy Creek, which was established by the Florida legislature in 1967. The Disney-controlled district did file a statement with the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board claiming that the state would be violating the 1967 law dissolving the district without paying off its bond debts.
Additionally, credit-ratings agency Fitch Ratings warned that the law could lead to lower bond ratings — and higher borrowing costs — for governments all around Florida.