Mitch Perry, Florida Phoenix
Wasting no time in firing back at The Walt Disney Co. in their continuing feud, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation Friday purporting to void the entertainment giant’s development agreement with the Reedy Creek Improvement District when that special district was still under Disney’s control.
The original bill (SB 1604), sponsored by Central Florida Republican Blaise Ingoglia, removed the ability of local governments to require certain design elements for single-family or two-family dwellings located in planned unit developments or master planned communities.
But it was amended last month and became the legislative vehicle for DeSantis to push back after Disney reached an agreement with Reedy Creek locking in zoning, infrastructure, and air-rights approvals just before that board was dissolved and its authority turned over to the Central Florida Tourism Oversight Board, the newly designed DeSantis appointed group.
The Legislature created Reedy Creek, a special taxing district, in the 1960s to spur Disney’s developments in the region.
The move stunned the DeSantis administration, and he immediately vowed to take revenge in an escalation of their battle that began last year when the company opposed the Parental Rights in Education Act (the “Don’t Say Gay” bill) supported by the governor. That led DeSantis to push the Legislature to end Disney’s taxing district.
“Disney’s corporate kingdom is over — despite their repeated and futile attempts to circumvent the Legislature and the will of the people,” DeSantis said last month. “Their cheerleaders in the media thought that Disney ‘outsmarted’ the state, but the new control board uncovered their sloppy scheme, and the agreements will be nullified by new legislation that I intend to execute.”
That “new legislation” is the amendment that will void Disney and Reedy Creek’s previous agreement.
Democrats blasted the governor’s signing of the bill on Friday, which both chambers in the Legislature passed earlier this week.
“When are we going to stop playing whack-a-mouse and focus on solving the real issues that Floridians face?” said Orlando Democratic state Rep. Anna Eskamani in a press release. “This is really getting old, and I understand DeSantis’ presidential bid is tanking and he needs to take on Mickey Mouse to look big and bad to his base but really, governor — just let it go.”
Shortly after the Central Florida Tourism Oversight Board voided the agreements that Disney made with the Reedy Creek Improvement District, Disney filed a federal lawsuit accusing the governor of waging a campaign of government retaliation against them. The new board then filed a lawsuit against Disney this week.
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