The Ongoing Feud between Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and The Walt Disney Company over Control of Reedy Creek Improvement District

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and The Walt Disney Company have been in a public feud for over a year, with the latest escalation occurring on Monday.[0] DeSantis proposed legislation that would revoke any deal Disney made with the previous board, subject the company to state inspections of all its rides, and give the state-run board control over undeveloped land around Disney.[1] The fight began nearly a year ago after Disney opposed the Parental Rights in Education bill, dubbed as the “Don’t Say Gay,” that prohibits teachers from leading classroom discussions on gender identity and sexual identity in kindergarten through third grade. In retaliation, DeSantis took action to gain control of the self-government powers that the company had been granted for a long time.[2] Disney took action to ensure that these powers are protected permanently.[2] Part of the conflict has been focused on the Reedy Creek Improvement District, which was established by the state in 1967 and granted Disney authority over matters ordinarily managed by local governments, such as land utilization, fire prevention, and sewage facilities.[3] In February, just before a unique legislative session intended to provide DeSantis with authority over the Reedy Creek Improvement District, the board supported by Disney outsmarted the governor.[4] Last-minute development and restrictive covenant agreements were made with Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, U.S. Inc., which essentially mandates Disney’s approval for any future changes made by a board controlled by the state government for several decades.[4] However, the new board members appointed by DeSantis say that the agreement limits their authority over Disney.[5] The regulations in question pertain to the February 8th accord made between Disney and the ex-Reedy Creek Board, which was later put under Governor DeSantis’ personal jurisdiction.[0] The deal essentially ensured an additional 30 years of relative status quo, allowing Disney similar guarantees the corporation had before the Governor signed the Reedy Creek takeover bill into law.[0]

The Reedy Creek Improvement District was created by state law over 50 years ago to exempt 38 miles of land Disney owns from most state and local regulations and allow Disney to collect taxes, follow its own building codes, and provide emergency services for its six theme parks and resorts. The state legislature created the Reedy Creek Improvement District in 1967 and effectively gave Disney the power to control municipal services like power, water, roads, and fire protection around its Central Florida theme parks that didn’t exist before Walt Disney and his builders arrived. In addition to other notable benefits, the exceptional district provided Disney with an escape from bureaucratic obstacles and reduced the cost of borrowing funds for infrastructure ventures related to its theme parks.[6] Last year, DeSantis wanted to dissolve the Reedy Creek Improvement District, the special taxing district created in 1967 to pay for municipal services to the 39-square-mile area where Disney built its theme parks, hotels, and resort areas at a time when the nearest urban development was more than 16 miles away.

After former Disney CEO Bob Chapek spoke out against the governor’s Parental Rights in Education Act last year, DeSantis declared the company was “woke,” attacked it in public, and called lawmakers into special sessions to pass a bill intended to give the state oversight over a special taxing district that has allowed Disney to self-govern their theme park and surrounding area since the 1960s, potentially costing the company $700 million in outstanding debt. Disney staff members took a stance in 2022 against Florida’s proposed education legislation called Parental Rights, also referred to as the “don’t say gay” bill, which prohibited kindergarten to third-grade public school instructors from teaching about sexual orientation or gender identity. Disney’s CEO Bob Chapek sent an email to all employees, pledging to halt all political contributions in Florida and expressing regret for not taking action earlier.[7] During the 2020 election cycle, Disney made a contribution of $913,000 to the Republican Party of Florida, as well as a smaller amount to the Florida Democratic Party.[7]

The agreements are entirely biased.[8] During a presentation to the board, David Thompson, a partner with Cooper Kirk based in Washington, stated that Disney has held governmental power for decades without offering anything in return to the district.[8] Disney resorted to a Scrooge McDuck-like scheme in an attempt to circumvent Florida’s laws. The ultimate goal was to evade legal consequences.[9]

0. “DeSantis’ Reedy Creek Board Fires Planning Board, Takes Over” WDW News Today, 19 Apr. 2023,

1. “Amendment filed to regain control over Disney deals” News 13 Orlando, 19 Apr. 2023,

2. “Chris Christie derides Ron DeSantis for being outfoxed by Disney” The Guardian US, 18 Apr. 2023,

3. “Reedy Creek proposal emerges in Florida Senate” CBS Miami, 19 Apr. 2023,

4. “Following DeSantis’ lead, lawmaker proposes scrapping Disney agreements” Tampa Bay Times, 19 Apr. 2023,

5. “DeSantis vs. Disney: Florida governor vows more control of land” Tallahassee Democrat, 17 Apr. 2023,

6. “DeSantis allies on Disney oversight board threaten company with taxes, rate hikes and affordable housing” CNN, 19 Apr. 2023,

7. “What’s Going On With the DeSantis-Disney Debacle?” Vogue, 19 Apr. 2023,

8. “DeSantis-appointed Disney board outlines aggressive changes” NBC News, 19 Apr. 2023,

9. “Disney’s Reedy Creek deal violated state law, attorneys for DeSantis board say” Orlando Sentinel, 19 Apr. 2023,

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