All board members for Disney World’s governmental district would be appointed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis under legislation filed in the Florida House Monday.
The bill is the long-promised plan to replace the Disney-controlled Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID), which covers all of Walt Disney World, with a structure controlled by the state. That replacement was the result of Disney publicly opposing what critics called the “Don’t Say Gay” bill — which said Florida schools cannot teach sexual orientation or gender identity in kindergarten through third grade or “in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate.”
DeSantis called Disney’s stance “a provocation” and signed a law last April to eliminate RCID by June 2023. It took until Monday for Florida Republicans to file a bill detailing its replacement.
The provisions of the bill include:
- Replacing RCID over two years with a new Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, whose five board members will be picked by the governor and confirmed by the Florida Senate;
- Anyone with ties to a “theme park or entertainment complex” in the past three years won’t be eligible to serve on the board;
- Disney’s RCID will be responsible for any existing bonds, currently totaling around $1 billion.
DeSantis framed the RCID replacement as an issue of fairness, stating in a press conference last week, “We’re not going to have a corporation controlling its own government.”
In Disney’s first public comments this year about the Reedy Creek issue, Walt Disney World Resort president Jeff Vahle said in a statement: “We are monitoring the progression of the draft legislation, which is complex given the long history of the Reedy Creek Improvement District. Disney works under a number of different models and jurisdictions around the world, and regardless of the outcome, we remain committed to providing the highest quality experience for the millions of guests who visit each year.”
The bill is nearly guaranteed to pass given the Republican majorities in both houses of the Florida Legislature. Florida State Sen. Jason Pizzo, a Democrat from North Miami Beach, predicted that Disney’s plan was to fight the issue in court to delay a resolution until after the 2024 presidential election — where DeSantis is widely expected to compete for the Republican nomination.
“I think Disney anticipates having to litigate on this issue, to sue, hope to get a stay from the court to keep things status quo, and then basically just drag it out until DeSantis is gone and people need, or don’t care, about Disney,” Pizzo said, according to Business Insider.