The Florida Senate voted to strip Walt Disney World of its independent government during a special session on Wednesday.
If signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis, the legislation will end the exemption of land under the control of Disney from Florida land use regulations. The exemption was passed in 1967, creating the Reedy Creek Improvement District that currently contains all of Walt Disney World and the towns of Lake Buena Vista and Bay Lake.
The area is currently governed by a five-person council made up of Disney executives. Republican legislators are looking to end the arrangement and bring the area under the governance of Osceola and Orange counties as retaliation against the Walt Disney Co.'s unsuccessful attempt to stop Florida from passing laws barring discussion of sexual identity and gender orientation in public schools. Disney's reaction to the law has been the subject of scorn from all sides of the political spectrum, including the lunatic fringe.
Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings worried the move could disrupt long-standing agreements between Disney and the county over paying for services.
“Disney has been a good community partner over the last 50-plus years,” Demings said. “They have reimbursed us 100% of the costs for the sheriff’s office, for example, who patrol the Reedy Creek Improvement District.”
Demings fears that new arrangements mandated by the state could shift costs onto Orange County taxpayers.
In addition to the planned dissolution of Reedy Creek, legislators also passed a bill ending Disney's exemption from a law that would allow individuals to sue tech companies over being removed from their platforms. The bill, passed in the wake of former president Donald Trump's Facebook ban, initially contained a carve-out for theme park companies, a clear sop to Disney.
Stay on top of Central Florida news and views with our weekly newsletters, and consider supporting this free publication. Our small but mighty team is working tirelessly to bring you Central Florida news, and every little bit helps.