DeSantis Strips Disney of Self-Governing Powers, Appoints New Board

On Monday, February 27, 2023, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis enacted a new law stripping Walt Disney World’s Reedy Creek Improvement District of its self-governing powers.[0] This move comes after a public feud between Disney and DeSantis, who opposed the resort’s decision to speak out against the state’s Parental Rights in Education bill, which critics call the “Don’t Say Gay” law.[1] This law bars instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in kindergarten through third grade and lessons deemed not age-appropriate.[1]

The law renames the district the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, and gives DeSantis the power to remove all five members of its Disney-appointed governing board and handpick replacements.[2] DeSantis has appointed a five-member board of his own for the new state-controlled district, which will take office June 1 pending Florida Senate confirmation.[3] The board is made up of people with ties to the governor and/or to the state’s Republican party, including Martin Garcia, a Tampa lawyer who is the chair of Pinehill capital, a private investment firm that donated $50,000 to the governor’s reelection campaign last year; Bridget Ziegler, a Sarasota County School Board member and a co-founder of Moms for Liberty; and Ron Peri, CEO of The Gathering USA, a ministry that focuses on faith and culture.[4]

The district, previously known as the Reedy Creek Improvement District, had allowed Disney to act as its own government for over five decades, controlling everything from land use to running its own fire department, and saving itself millions in taxes annually.[5] This law changes that, as it subjects the district to various layers of state oversight, and requires Disney to pay its debts and fair share of taxes.[6]

DeSantis said of his choices for the board: “I think that all of these board members very much would like to see the type of entertainment that all families can appreciate.”[7] No comment was immediately given by Disney in response to the request.[8]

The Reedy Creek Improvement District has long been controversial, as it allowed Disney to bypass the state for approvals on expansions and act as an independent entity while paying high property taxes in Orange and Osceola counties.[9]

0. “Ron DeSantis Makes Ominous Warning About Disney’s Future Creative Control” Newsweek, 28 Feb. 2023,

1. “Gov. Ron DeSantis signs Reedy Creek bill” News 13 Orlando, 27 Feb. 2023,–ron-desantis-signs-reedy-creek-bill

2. “DeSantis gives control of Reedy Creek to state, with a handpicked board of Republicans including one of his largest donors” Orlando Weekly, 27 Feb. 2023,

3. “Why is Florida Gov. DeSantis ending Disney’s special government status?” ABC 10 News San Diego KGTV, 28 Feb. 2023,

4. “DeSantis appoints well-connected Republicans to Reedy Creek board” Tampa Bay Times, 27 Feb. 2023,

5. “DeSantis Stacks New Disney Oversight Board With His Donor Pals” The Daily Beast, 27 Feb. 2023,

6. “Gov. Ron DeSantis signs bill to take control of Disney district” WPTV News Channel 5 West Palm, 27 Feb. 2023,

7. “Here Are The 5 DeSantis Allies—Including Conservative Donors, Christian Activists—He Picked To Run Disney’s District” Forbes, 28 Feb. 2023,

8. “DeSantis signs law stripping Disney World of Reedy Creek control” Orlando Sentinel, 27 Feb. 2023,

9. “Florida Governor Strips Disney of Special District Control” Gizmodo, 28 Feb. 2023,

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