Florida Gov. DeSantis Strips Disney World of Autonomy, Appoints Five-Member Board

On Monday, March 6, 2023, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill that strips Disney World of its autonomy by ending the Reedy Creek Improvement District.[0] DeSantis declared that “the corporate kingdom finally comes to an end.”[1] Governor DeSantis will appoint a five-member board to govern the now Central Florida Tourism Oversight District. Additionally, the legislation changes the name of the special district to the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District.

DeSantis’ decision to take away Disney World’s self-governing powers comes after the company publicly opposed the state’s controversial Parental Rights in Education Law, dubbed by critics as the “Don’t Say Gay” law.[2] DeSantis signed a bill into law that restricts conversations about sexual orientation and gender identity in schools.[3]

The five-member board appointed by DeSantis includes Sean Michael Peri, the former pastor of an Orlando-based church, who has a history of making anti-LGBTQ+ comments and spreading baseless conspiracy theories online. Additionally, the board includes Erica L. Ziegler, a conservative school board member and the co-founder of Moms for Liberty, who is a vocal proponent of DeSantis’s education policies.[2] The final Disney board appointee, Brian Aungst Jr., donated roughly $2,000 to local Republican candidates during the last election cycle, but did not donate to DeSantis.[4]

Disney released a statement and Reedy Creek praised for having set the highest standards. Furthermore, they expressed their optimism that the newly created Central Florida Tourism Oversight District would continue this work, as well as share their commitment to aiding the local economy, allowing the resort and Florida’s tourism industry to keep growing.[2]

0. “Ex-Disney event host praises DeSantis for revoking ‘woke’ company’s self-governing power: ‘Makes total sense'” Fox News, 7 Mar. 2023, https://www.foxnews.com/media/ex-disney-event-host-praises-desantis-revoking-woke-companys-self-governing-power-makes-total-sense

1. “Amanda Grace: The Tie Between Purim and Disney Being Decrowned” Charisma Magazine, 8 Mar. 2023, https://charismamag.com/spiritled-living/amanda-grace-the-tie-between-purim-and-disney-being-decrowned

2. “Here’s a look at DeSantis’ Disney special district board appointees” Axios, 7 Mar. 2023, https://www.axios.com/2023/03/07/desantis-disney-special-district-board

3. “Bridget Ziegler vows transparency from position on new Tourism Oversight Board” WWSB, 1 Mar. 2023, https://www.mysuncoast.com/2023/03/01/bridget-ziegler-vows-transparency-position-new-tourism-oversight-board

4. “Disney World’s special tax district is now overseen by these 5 DeSantis allies” NPR, 6 Mar. 2023, https://www.npr.org/2023/03/06/1160997679/disney-board-desantis-ziegler-peri-garcia-special-district

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