DeSantis gives control of Reedy Creek to state, with a handpicked board of Republicans including one of his largest donors

The move effectively punishes Disney for speaking out against the governor's Republican agenda

click to enlarge DeSantis gives control of Reedy Creek to state, with a handpicked board of Republicans including one of his largest donors
Photo via Dave Decker

A long-running feud over Disney World's self-governing Reedy Creek has come to an end, as Gov. DeSantis signed a law Monday putting the district in the state's control.

The law, effective immediately, strips Reedy Creek Improvement District of the unique powers it has held in Florida for more than 50 years.

The move punctuates a battle between the governor and Disney, after the entertainment company criticized DeSantis' "anti-woke" Republican agenda and opposed Florida's "Don't Say Gay" education law.

“Today, the corporate kingdom finally comes to an end,” Gov. DeSantis said at Reedy Creek Fire Station No. 4 where he signed the bill. “This is what accountability looks like.”

The law will rename the area the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District. It also gives the governor power to remove all five members of its Disney-appointed governing board and handpick replacements.

DeSantis announced his choices for the board. As chairman, he tapped Tampa attorney Martin Garcia, a known Florida Republican donor who gave the governor $50,000 for re-election last year.

He also wants to appoint Ron Peri, CEO of the Gathering USA ministry; Bridget Ziegler, Sarasota County School Board member, co-founder of conservative organization Moms for Liberty and wife of the new chairman of the Republican Party of Florida; Seminole County attorney Michael Sasso; and Clearwater attorney Brian Aungst.

The state gave Walt Disney World control over the taxing district in 1967 as the theme park was being created. The previously passed law gave Disney control of issues like land use and sewer services, which are typically handled by local governments.

DeSantis has said the arrangement gave Disney World an unfair advantage and moved to have it entirely dissolved after former Disney CEO Bob Chapek criticized Florida's "Don't Say Gay" law.

Lawmakers left an option of keeping the district with changes, culminating in the saga that ultimately stripped the district of its self-governance.

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Chloe Greenberg

Chloe Greenberg is the Digital Content Editor for Orlando Weekly.
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