Florida lawmakers unveiled a bill Monday to give state control of a special district to the Walt Disney Co. to govern most of the area around Walt Disney World.
The bill, expected to be considered during a special session of the state Legislature this month, would allow Gov. Ron DeSantis to appoint five board members from the district. This legislation would rename the Reedy Creek Improvement District to the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District.
The bill calls for the district to continue to honor outstanding debts and retain taxing authority. Board members are appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Senate. The bill also prohibits theme park employees, officers or directors from serving on the board with their relatives in the past three years.
The district was created by the legislature in 1967 as Disney prepared to build its theme parks on the property. But last year, after The Walt Disney Co. came out against its parents’ rights law, DeSantis led an effort to dissolve the special district, known last year as the “don’t say gay” law. Democrats and other critics slammed the governor for the move as retaliation against the company for taking a public stance on the issue, while nearby county officials expressed concern that they would be stuck with nearly $1 billion in Reedy Creek District debt.
The governor’s staff said additional legislation would address concerns before the districting scheduled for June. Under the bill, that would not happen, but the district would operate under a new name and regulation.
“We are a corporation that is not going to control its own government,” DeSantis said at a press conference last week.
The governor has a vote for state control of the district, as he advocated for its abolition last year.
Bill text here.
A Walt Disney Company spokeswoman did not immediately return a request for comment.
The district is created to oversee issues such as land use and infrastructure within its boundaries. Under current law, board members are elected by landowners within the district, meaning Disney has control over who sits on the body.
More to come.