Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) is vowing there is still “more to come” in the state’s battle to take over the former Reedy Creek Improvement District, which encompasses the Walt Disney World Resort.
DeSantis, at a speech in Georgia on Thursday, promised more action after Disney stripped the board governing the district where Walt Disney World is located of most of its authority before it was restructured and stocked with the governor’s appointees. The entertainment company subtly cut the legs out from underneath the board and fought to ensure its crippled state by including what some are calling the “King Charles clause.”
“There’s a lot of little back-and-forths going on now with the state taking control, but rest assured, you know, you ain’t seen nothing yet,” DeSantis said. “There’s more to come in that regard.”
On Thursday, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody made a public records request to the Disney-appointed board members of the former Reedy Creek Improvement District.
In the letter, she demands texts, emails, and other public records regarding “documents discussing an intention or goal of circumventing, avoiding, frustrating, mitigating, or otherwise attempting to avoid the effects of anticipated actions of the Florida Governor and Legislature.” The letter says there is a potential for civil and criminal penalties if records are not turned over.
On Wednesday, the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District board announced that it discovered an agreement between Disney and the former board that strips the new board of nearly all of its oversight power. The agreement was made on Feb. 8, which was the same day the Florida House passed a bill restructuring the previously named Reedy Creek Improvement District.
DeSantis has touted his victory over Disney during his shadow campaign for the White House, pointing to his resolve in fighting one of the biggest revenue drivers in the state.
“For more than 50 years, the state of Florida put Disney on a pedestal,” DeSantis wrote in an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal. “Democrats often rail about corporations’ nefarious influence over politics and oppose favorable exceptions for big companies. Yet they supported keeping Disney’s special self-governing status. This confirms how much the modern left has jettisoned principle in favor of power. As long as large corporations help advance the left’s woke agenda, the left is willing to do their bidding.”
Disney had signaled that it was ready and willing to work with DeSantis and whoever he chose to appoint to the district’s new governing board; however, its latest move has given DeSantis a bit of a black eye.
The agreement essentially does not permit the board to make most changes without permission from the Walt Disney Company.
The part of the agreement making the most headlines is when it is set to expire. The agreement lays out that it “shall continue in effect until 21 years after the death of the last survivor of the descendants of King Charles III, King of England, living as of the date of this declaration.”
The Magic Kingdom is basically using the current lineage of a British monarch to keep its autonomy alive.
“All agreements signed between Disney and the District were appropriate, and were discussed and approved in open, noticed public forums in compliance with Florida’s Government in the Sunshine law,” Disney said in a statement on Thursday to the Washington Examiner.
Because the agreements appear to have been made in proper order under the previous government of the Reedy Creek Improvement District, it is unknown if the DeSantis administration’s challenge to the agreement will prevail in the courts.
The battle between the governor and Disney, which led to Disney’s central Florida district being restructured, began after the company came out strongly against the state’s Parental Rights in Education bill in March 2022.