Florida Republicans will proceed with their plan for the state government to take over Disney World’s Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID) during a special legislative session scheduled to begin Monday.
The takeover will be the endgame of the Walt Disney Company’s feud with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. After Disney publicly called for the repeal of the law dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” by LGBTQ+ rights groups and paused all political donations in Florida, DeSantis marshaled a bill eliminating RCID, the Disney-controlled governmental district covering Disney World that was established through the legislature in 1967, by June of this year.
“Disney will not have self-governing status anymore,” DeSantis said Wednesday. “We’re going to make sure that there are no special legal privileges.”
As of Friday, no bill has been released or filed detailing exactly how the replacement state-run board would operate. The only confirmed details came from a notice published last month on the Osceola County website which said Florida would take up legislation “increasing state oversight, accountability, and transparency of” RCID.
DeSantis’ office has said that Disney “will be responsible for their outstanding debts” and “will pay their fair share of taxes,” addressing reports that local counties would have to absorb RCID’s outstanding bond debt and provide services that are currently handled by RCID. Disney World paid $780 million in state and local taxes in fiscal year 2021, along with an extra annual payment for services provided by the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.
State Sen. Linda Stewart, a Democrat from Orlando, told The Orlando Sentinel that she doesn’t think any changes need to be made. “I think it [Reedy Creek] has done an extraordinary job. I have not seen any abuse of authority. They did the business of what needed to be done in a timely manner.”
Democratic opposition won’t stop the state takeover. The April 2022 Reedy Creek bill passed the Florida House and Senate with nearly all Republicans voting in support, and the party increased its majorities in both chamber in November’s midterm elections.
It’s unclear the DeSantis plan will have any effect on most guests’ experiences at Disney World. DeSantis’ office did not respond to a question from Theme Park Tribune last month on whether the Reedy Creek replacement bill will seek to give the state any control over content in Disney World’s rides, shows and attractions.
The special session coincides with Disney’s quarterly earnings call, which is scheduled for Wednesday. It will be the company’s first earnings report released since Bob Iger returned to the CEO position, replacing Bob Chapek, who had been initially reluctant to condemn the “Don’t Say Gay” law, but reversed his stance after backlash from both inside and outside the company.